PA 07-147—sSB 977

Select Committee on Children

Education Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING RESTRAINTS AND SECLUSION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

SUMMARY: This act regulates the use of physical restraints and seclusion on students receiving or awaiting eligibility determinations for special education services in public schools. It (1) gives the State Board of Education (SBE) authority over their use as part of its existing mandate to regulate special education curriculum and instructional conditions and (2) requires the SBE to adopt implementing regulations.

Existing law regulates the use of these techniques on people receiving direct care and educational services from regional educational service centers; private institutions and facilities that provide special education under contract with school boards; the departments of Children and Families, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Mental Retardation, and Public Health; and entities they license or supervise. It excludes nursing homes and Department of Correction (DOC) facilities.

The act requires local and regional boards of education to tell pupils, parents, guardians, and others standing in the place of parents about:

1. the laws and regulations governing the use of physical restraints and seclusion and

2. related student and parental rights.

This must occur at the first planning and placement team meeting (PPT) involving the student's individual educational program (IEP).

The act also creates reporting procedures.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2007

PHYSICAL RESTRAINTS AND SECLUSION

Physical Restraints

With some exceptions, the law defines “physical restraints” as any mechanical or personal restriction that immobilizes or reduces the free movement of a person's arms, legs, or head. The act excludes helmets, mitts, and similar devices used to prevent special education students from hurting themselves if their use is documented in their IEPs.

Seclusion

With some exceptions, the law defines “seclusion” as the confinement of a person in a room, whether alone or with staff supervision, in a manner that prevents the person from leaving. The law permits involuntary seclusion (1) in accordance with a student's IEP or (2) in an emergency to prevent immediate or imminent injury to the person or others, so long as it is the least restrictive alternative.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

Local and Regional School Boards

Existing law requires institutions and facilities (other than nursing homes and DOC facilities) to report injuries caused by the use of restraints and seclusion to the state agency that supervises or has jurisdiction over them. Agencies, in turn, must review the reports when considering contract and license renewals. The act extends the reporting and review requirements to local and regional school boards and the State Department of Education, respectively. It allows the boards and institutions and facilities that provide special education to report these incidents to the SBE.

The act also requires local and regional school boards, institutions, and facilities to notify a special education student's parent or guardian of each incident in which the child was placed in physical restraints or seclusion. The boards also must keep records and compile annual reports of each instance and the nature of the underlying emergency that necessitated their use.

State Board of Education

The act requires the SBE to notify the child advocate and director of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities when it receives a report involving a serious injury or death. The law authorizes these agencies to conduct investigations and issue written reports.

The act also permits the SBE to (1) review schools', facilities', and institutions' annual reports on the use of physical restraints and seclusion and (2) produce yearly summaries indicating how often these techniques were used on special education students.

BACKGROUND

Special Education Law

State and federal laws require local and regional boards of education to identify students who need, or may be eligible for, special education services and to provide free, appropriate services in the least restrictive environment. They must hold PPTs to develop IEPs for each eligible child. They must also hold PPTs whenever they propose to modify or terminate a student's IEP.

Students, parents, guardians, and surrogate parents and their chosen representatives may attend and participate in each of these meetings and challenge the appropriateness of the recommended services.

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