On June 4, Gov Charlie Christ signed into law the state’s first regulations for the use of restraint and seclusion on public school students with disabilities. The law requires that a school prepare an incident report within a specified period after each occasion of student restraint or seclusion and that the school notify the student’s parent or guardian if manual physical restraint or seclusion is used. It also prohibits school employees from using certain types of restrictions and restraints. These include forbidding a mechanical or manual restraint that restricts breathing, and prohibiting school employees from locking a disabled student in a room that fails to meet state fire marshal rules.
Though this is an important step in the right direction, many advocates and legislators have criticized the bill as providing only minimal protections for children with disabilities. For example, the bill does not address the use of prone restraint, which is a face down hold that puts many children at risk for serious injury and death. Additionally, does prohibiting a student from being locked in a room that fails to meet state fire marshal rules imply that students will continue to be locked away as long as the room meets these fire marshal requirements? Laura Pinkus, the Director of Exceptional Student Education for the Palm Beach County School District, noted that the state bill doesn’t go as far in protecting students’ rights as the policies that the school district already has in place. Others argue that Christ made the right decision to sign the bill into law because it at least sets standards that can be further examined and enhanced in the future.