SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A state lawmaker is looking to change up school policies on restraining and secluding students, saying physical restraint should not be used unless the students are a danger to themselves or others. People who spoke out in favor of this said restraining students could make the situation worse for them, potentially causing physical, mental, and emotional pain.
“These are very traumatic experiences for students and in the case of restraints it can be extremely dangerous even fatal,” said NM Disabilities Coalition, Ellen Pinnes. Senate Bill 319, wants schools to use less-restrictive interventions and de-escalation techniques before resorting to physical restraint. The bill would only allow a school to use physical restraint if that school has a way to document and report incidents where restraint was used.
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The bill would also ban certain types of restraints like medication to control a student’s behavior or so-called ‘prone’ restraint, which would keep the student in a face-down position. The proposal would also ban students from being secluded; meaning that they could no longer be placed in a room by themselves.
This bill got some pushback because lawmakers wanted to hear more research on restraint and seclusion before making this a law. “We as superintendents unanimously agreed to call for more study before we revisit this delicate compromise,” said the NM School Superintendents Association President, Dennis Roch.
There have been numerous incidents KRQE News 13 has reported on where school personnel or security officers have been accused of mishandling students. Like a 2014 case that became the subject of a Department of Justice Investigation after an Albuquerque student with autism claimed he was tased by an Albuquerque Public School officer.
The bill made it out of the Senate Education Committee but without a recommendation. It now heads to Senate Judiciary. This bill also calls for stronger reporting requirements for parents and school administrators when restraint is used on a student.