OLR Bill Analysis

SB 927

AN ACT CONCERNING SECLUSION AND RESTRAINT IN SCHOOLS.

SUMMARY:

This bill prohibits teachers, administrators, and other public school employees from using life-threatening or prone physical restraints on students. It restricts the use of seclusion and certain allowable physical restraints to emergencies and limits how long a student can be secluded or kept in an allowable physical restraint to the lesser of either 15 minutes or “one minute per age of the student” (presumably one minute for each year of a student's age).

It requires school boards to make a reasonable effort to notify parents and guardians immediately after their child has been physically restrained, and in no case more than 24 hours later. It requires certain school employees to receive in-service training on proper restraint and seclusion procedures and bars them from employing physical restraint or seclusion unless they have done so.

The bill does not limit any defense to criminal prosecution for using deadly physical force available under law (see BACKGROUND). It also makes conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015

PROHIBITED RESTRAINTS

Life Threatening and Prone Physical Restraints

The bill bars school employees from using a life threatening or prone physical restraint on a student. Under the bill a “life threatening physical restraint” is one that restricts air flow to a student's lungs, whether by compressing the student's chest or otherwise. A “prone physical restraint” is one that restrains a student by immobilizing or reducing his or her ability to freely move his or her arms, legs, or head while the student is in a prone position.

School Employee

Under the bill, a “school employee” is a teacher, substitute teacher, school administrator, school superintendent, guidance counselor, psychologist, social worker, nurse, physician, school paraprofessional or coach employed by a local or regional school board or working in a public elementary, middle, or high school. A school employee also is anyone else who comes into regular contact with students while performing his or her duties and provides services to or on behalf of students enrolled in a public elementary, middle, or high school under a contract with the local or regional school board.

RESTRICTED USE OF ALLOWABLE PHYSICAL RESTRAINTS

Under the bill, a school employee can use other forms of physical restraint only to prevent immediate or imminent injury to a student or others. In such a case, the employee cannot use physical restraint (1) to punish a student, (2) because it is convenient or (3) instead of a less restrictive, alternative physical restraint.

Under the bill, as under existing law (CGS 46a-150), physical restraint is any mechanical or personal restriction that immobilizes or reduces the free movement of a person's arms, legs, or head. It does not include:

1. briefly holding a student to calm or comfort him or her;

2. restraint involving the minimum contact needed to safely escort a student from one place to another;

3. medical devices, including supports prescribed by a health care provider to achieve proper body position or balance;

4. helmets or other protective gear that protects a student from being injured in a fall; or

5. helmets, mitts, and similar devices (a) used to prevent self-injury as part of a documented treatment plan or individualized education program, and (b) which are the least restrictive means available to prevent the self-injury.

SECLUSION AND ITS USE

The bill bars school employees from placing a student in seclusion except to prevent immediate or imminent injury to the student or others. As is the case with allowed physical restraint, the employee cannot use seclusion (1) to punish the student, (2) because it is convenient, or (3) instead of a less restrictive alternative. Under the bill, “seclusion” is a student's involuntary confinement in a room, whether alone or supervised, in a way that prevents the student from leaving.

LOCAL AND REGIONAL SCHOOL BOARD REQUIREMENTS

Parental Notification

Under the bill, each local or regional school board must try to notify a student's parent or guardian immediately after the student has been physically restrained or placed in seclusion and must notify the parent or guardian no later than 24 hours afterwards.

In-Service Training

The bill requires school employees to receive in-service training on proper restraint and seclusion procedures and “other de-escalation techniques” before placing a student in physical restraint or seclusion. It requires each local or regional school board to provide this training as part of the required training on school violence prevention and conflict resolution. By law, this is required training only for teachers, administrators, and pupil personnel who hold the initial educator, provisional educator, or professional educator certificate, although school boards may allow paraprofessionals and noncertified employees to participate.

The bill also makes conforming changes, including requiring school boards to inform parents or guardians of special education students of its provisions at each initial planning and placement team meeting.

BACKGROUND

Use of Physical Force as a Defense

By law, the use of physical force on another person that would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable in certain circumstances. For example, a teacher may use reasonable physical force on a minor to the extent he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to (1) protect himself or others from immediate physical injury; (2) obtain possession of a dangerous instrument or controlled substance on or in the control of the minor; (3) protect property from physical damage; or (4) restrain the minor or remove him or her to another area, to maintain order (CGS 53a-18 (6)).

Under CGS 53a-19, an individual is generally justified in using reasonable physical force on someone else to defend himself or herself or a third person from what the individual reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of physical force. In general, a person can use deadly physical force only if he or she reasonably believes another person is (1) using or about to use deadly physical force or (2) inflicting or about to inflict great bodily harm and the person cannot otherwise safely avoid it.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Committee on Children

Joint Favorable

Yea

10

Nay

0

(02/26/2015)