Restraints bill heads to floor for possible amendment

A bill regulating the use of seclusion and restraint methods in schools is heading to the Senate floor for a possible amendment, after a vote in the Senate Education Committee. 

House Bill 281 would outlaw the use of corporal punishment or chemical restraint in any school setting, and limit the use of other restraint and seclusion to situations where an individual is in “imminent danger.” Currently, some schools allow the use of restraint or seclusion tactics to manage classroom behavior, especially in situations with special education students or those on individualized educational plans. Seclusion rooms are often used to attempt to calm down aggressive students. 

The committee’s unanimous vote came after a string of testimony in favor of the bill. 

Charmaine Thaner spoke of a second-grade teacher who restrained a child, and grew to regret it.

“The teacher described looking at her second grader and seeing his eyes filled with terror,” she said.

Thaner later revealed that she was that teacher.  “I regret every single bit of it to this day.”

Later in life, she learned about alternative methods of classroom management, and did research about the effects of restraint on young minds. Seclusion and restraint methods traumatize children, Thaner told the committee.

Theresa Boyer detailed the trauma suffered by her own son — a former foster child — who was restrained and secluded in his school. For the first three months of his life, Boyer’s son was abused — something that contributed to his behaviors later in life.  Though she explicitly told her son’s school she did not want him secluded in the padded room because it would bring up past trauma, he was sent to the room anyway. According to Boyer, seclusion was not included in the incident report she received from the school.

Her son’s behaviors regressed following the incident, and he was later pulled from that school.

“Seclusion rooms are not the answer, they do not calm children,” Boyer said. “I believe they are too often used punitively or because someone just does not know what else to do.”

The committee resoundingly supported the intent of the bill — but some members had concerns about overreach into the private sector. HB 281 includes private schools among the regulated entities, and bill co-sponsor Rep. Marco Erickson, R-Idaho Falls, did not consult with private school officials before drafting the legislation. Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, said he’d prefer if private schools were left out of the bill.

And Sen. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, said the bill could benefit from a parental consent clause, to inform parents about the classroom management tactics that can and cannot be used.

The motion to send the bill to the amending order passed unanimously.

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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