PA 15-141—sSB 927

Committee on Children

Education Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING SECLUSION AND RESTRAINT IN SCHOOLS

SUMMARY: This act explicitly extends, to most public school students in kindergarten through grade 12, laws regulating the use of restraint and seclusion that already applied to (1) students receiving special education services and (2) people cared for or supervised in institutions or facilities by the departments of children and families (DCF), developmental services, public health, and mental health and addiction services (DMHAS). It expands the protections that apply to students.

The act prohibits teachers, administrators, and other public school employees from using life-threatening physical restraints on any student, limits how long students can be kept in allowable physical restraints or seclusion, and specifies the types of locations in which a student may be secluded.

It bars school employees from using physical restraints on students or placing students in seclusion unless the employees have been properly trained and requires that this training be phased in over three years for school professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators beginning with the 2015-16 school year. It requires school boards to develop policies and procedures to (1) provide this training and (2) establish monitoring and internal reporting on the use of physical restraints and seclusion.

It requires school boards to (1) notify parents and guardians no later than 24 hours after a child has been placed in physical restraint or in seclusion and (2) make a reasonable effort to notify them immediately after the start of the physical restraint or seclusion.

It requires school boards to take certain steps for students placed in physical restraint or seclusion four or more times in 20 school days.

Among other things, the act also:

1. requires school boards to identify, by July 1, 2015, crisis intervention teams to respond to incidents of physical restraint or seclusion;

2. requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to create a pilot program to study and analyze, and State Board of Education (SBE) to adopt or revise regulations on, the use of physical restraints and seclusion;

3. adds reporting requirements; and

4. makes conforming changes.

The act does not limit the justified use of physical force by local, state, or federal law enforcement officials performing their duties.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015

APPLICABILITY

School Employees

Under the act, 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 (1) comes into regular contact with students while performing his or her duties and (2) 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.

The act requires specialized training for school professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators. It does not define "school professional," but under the education statutes a school professional is a school teacher, administrator, or other SBE-certified person (CGS 10-66dd).

Student

The act applies to children:

1. in public schools enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade under the jurisdiction of a local or regional school board,

2. receiving special education and related services in an institution or facility operating under contract with a school board,

3. enrolled in a program or school administered by a regional education service center (RESC, see BACKGROUND), or

4. receiving special education and related services from an approved private special education program.

The act does not apply to children receiving education services from Unified School District #2 or DMHAS (see BACKGROUND).

PROHIBITING LIFE-THREATENING PHYSICAL RESTRAINTS

The act bars school employees from using a life-threatening physical restraint on a student. Under the act, this is a restraint or hold that (1) restricts air flow to a student's lungs, whether by compressing the student's chest or otherwise, or (2) immobilizes or reduces a prone student's ability to freely move his or her arms, legs, or head.

The prohibition does not limit any self-defense claim permitted to someone criminally charged with using deadly physical force (see BACKGROUND).

LIMITED USE OF PHYSICAL RESTRAINT

The act extends, to any student as defined by the act, limits that already apply to the use of physical restraints on students receiving special education services.

Under the act, as under existing law, a school employee may use physical restraint only in emergencies to prevent immediate or imminent injury to a student or others (see BACKGROUND). An employee may not use physical restraint (1) to discipline a student, (2) because it is convenient, or (3) instead of a less restrictive alternative.

As under existing law, the act requires a school employee to continually monitor a student placed in physical restraint and regularly evaluate the student for signs of physical distress. The employee conducting the evaluation must enter the evaluation in the student's educational record. Monitoring can be done either through direct observation or by video, provided the video monitoring occurs closely enough for the monitor to provide aid if needed.

Under the act, as under existing law, “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. a brief hold to calm or comfort a student;

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 used to prevent self-injury that are the least restrictive means available to prevent the self-injury and are (a) part of a documented treatment plan or individualized education program (IEP, see BACKGROUND) or (b) prescribed or recommended by a medical professional.

LIMITED USE OF SECLUSION

The act extends, to any student as defined by the act, limits on using seclusion that already apply to students receiving special education services.

Seclusion is a student's involuntary confinement in a room, whether alone or supervised, in a way that prevents the student from leaving. The law bars school employees from placing a student in seclusion except to prevent immediate or imminent injury to the student or others. As in the use of physical restraint, an employee may not use seclusion (1) to discipline a student, (2) because it is convenient, or (3) instead of a less restrictive alternative.

By law, an employee may not place a student in seclusion unless a school employee frequently monitors the student. The act additionally requires that the area in which the student is secluded have a window or other fixture allowing the student to clearly see beyond the seclusion area. As with physical restraint, monitoring of students in seclusion can be done either through direct observation (presumably from another room) or by video, provided the video monitoring occurs closely enough for the monitor to provide aid if needed.

Also, as in the use of physical restraint, a school employee must regularly evaluate the secluded student for signs of physical distress, and the employee conducting the evaluation must enter the evaluation in the student's educational record.

TIME LIMIT ON USE OF PHYSICAL RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION

Under the act, a student may not be placed in physical restraint or in seclusion for longer than 15 minutes, except this may be extended for additional periods of up to 30 minutes each if any of the following people determines that continued physical restraint or seclusion is necessary to prevent immediate or imminent injury to the student or others: (1) a school administrator or his or her designee, (2) school health or mental health personnel, or (3) a board-certified behavioral analyst. The individual making such a determination must have received training in the use of physical restraint and seclusion as the act provides. The administrator, health or mental health professional, or behavioral analyst must make a new determination every 30 minutes a child is physically restrained or secluded.

FREQUENT USE OF RESTRAINT OR SECLUSION

The act creates procedures that schools must follow in cases where a student is placed in physical restraint or seclusion four or more times in 20 school days.

In cases where such a student requires special education services or is being evaluated for these services, the student's planning and placement team must meet to (1) conduct or revise the student's behavioral assessment and (2) create or revise any applicable behavioral intervention plan, including the student's IEP.

For all other students, a school administrator, at least one of the student's teachers, the student's parent or guardian, and, if any, a mental health professional must meet to (1) conduct or revise the student's behavioral assessment, (2) create or revise any applicable behavioral intervention plan, and (3) determine if the student may require special education services.

PARENTAL NOTIFICATION

The act requires each school board to make a reasonable effort to notify a student's parent or guardian immediately after the student is physically restrained or placed in seclusion. The board must provide this notification no later than 24 hours after the student was placed in restraint or seclusion.

ADMINISTERING MEDICATION

The act generally bars school employees from administering any medication that affects the central nervous system and influences thinking, emotion, or behavior to any student without that child's consent. However, as under existing law for students receiving special education services, the employee may do this without such consent (1) in an emergency to prevent immediate or imminent injury to the child or someone else or (2) as an integral part of the child's established medical or behavioral support or educational plan. If there is no such plan, the employee may administer the medication without the student's consent under the initial orders of a licensed practitioner. The use of medications, alone or in combination, may be used only in therapeutically appropriate doses and not as a substitute for other appropriate treatment.

TRAINING ON USING PHYSICAL RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION

The act (1) bars a school employee from placing a student in physical restraint or seclusion unless he or she has received training in its proper use and (2) expands on the training existing law requires.

It requires that school professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators receive training in (1) preventing incidents requiring physical restraint or seclusion and (2) properly physically restraining or secluding someone. The training must be phased in over three years, beginning in the 2015-16 school year.

Overview

Starting on or after July 1, 2015, SDE must provide as part of the training an annual overview of relevant laws and regulations on the use of physical restraint and seclusion. The overview must be in the manner or form the education commissioner determines.

Prevention Training

Each school board must create a plan to provide school professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators with training and professional development on preventing incidents requiring physical restraint or seclusion. This plan must be implemented by July 1, 2017 and provide for the training of these individuals by July 1, 2019. The act authorizes SDE, within available appropriations, to provide monitoring and support to school boards on formulating and implementing this plan.

Proper Use of Physical Restraint or Seclusion

Schools boards must create a plan to provide school professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators with training and professional development on the proper way to physically restrain or seclude a student. This plan must include:

1. various types of physical restraint and seclusion,

2. the differences between (a) life-threatening physical restraint and other levels of physical restraint and (b) permissible physical restraint and pain compliance techniques, and

3. monitoring methods to prevent harm to a physically restrained or secluded student.

This training plan must be implemented by July 1, 2017 and provide for the training of all school professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators by July 1, 2019, and periodically thereafter, as the education commissioner prescribes.

Monitoring, Reporting, and Regulations

The act requires school boards to develop policies and procedures to (1) provide this training and (2) establish monitoring and internal reporting of the use of physical restraints and seclusion. School boards must post these policies and procedures on their websites and in their procedures manuals.

The act also requires SBE to adopt or revise regulations on the use of physical restraint and seclusion. No later than 60 days after SBE's adoption or revision of the regulations, each local or regional school board must update its applicable restraint and seclusion policies and procedures and make them available on its website and in its procedures manual.

CRISIS INTERVENTION TEAMS

By July 1, 2015 and for each school year afterward, each local or regional school board must require each school in its district to identify a crisis intervention team of school professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators trained in the use of physical restraint and seclusion. These teams must respond to any incident requiring physical restraint or seclusion under the act. Each team member must be annually recertified in the proper use of physical restraint and seclusion.

PHYSICAL INJURY

As under existing law for students receiving special education services, if restraint or seclusion results in physical injury to a student, the school board and each institution or facility must report the incident to SBE, which must include it in its annual report. The act specifies that this requirement also applies to approved private special education programs. SBE must report any instance of serious injury or death to the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities and, if appropriate, to the Office of the Child Advocate.

RECORDING AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

As under existing law for students receiving special education services, the act requires each school board, institution, and facility to record each instance where a student is physically restrained or secluded and specify (1) whether the use of seclusion was according to the student's IEP and (2) the nature of the emergency that necessitated its use. They must include this information in an annual compilation of the use of restraint and seclusion on their students. As under existing law, these entities need not report instances of in-school suspensions.

The act specifies that (1) this requirement also applies to approved private special education programs and (2) the school boards, facilities, institutions, and private special education programs record this information beginning July 1, 2016. The act also requires these entities to send the annual reports to SDE for its pilot program (see below).

Under prior law, SBE had to review the compilations and produce an annual summary report identifying the frequency of physical restraint or seclusion use for special education students and whether it was used in accordance with an IEP or in an emergency. The act requires SBE in preparing its annual summary report to specify if any student placed in physical restraint or seclusion is a special education student and, if so, whether the restraint or seclusion was used according to an IEP or in an emergency. The act requires SBE to submit the report annually, starting by January 15, 2017, to both the Education and Children's committees. The information must be included in the annual report card the Committee on Children prepares to evaluate state policies and programs affecting children (CGS 2-53m).

Pilot Program

The act requires SDE, for the school year beginning July 1, 2015, to establish a pilot program in various districts, including an alliance district, a regional school district, and a RESC (see BACKGROUND). Under the pilot program, SDE must examine physical restraint and seclusion incidents in schools and compile and analyze data on them to help SDE better understand and respond to them.

Student's Educational Record

As under existing law, the act requires that any use of physical restraint or seclusion be documented in the student's educational record. The documentation must include the nature of the emergency and what other steps, including attempts at verbal de-escalation, were taken to prevent the emergency from arising if there were signs that such an emergency might occur. It also must include a detailed description of the nature of the restraint or seclusion, its length, and its effect on the student's established educational plan.

BACKGROUND

Unified School District #2 (USD #2)

USD #2 serves children in DCF-run residential and day treatment facilities who cannot attend public school (CGS 17a-37). According to DCF, USD #2 serves the North and South campuses of the Albert J. Solnit Psychiatric Center (formerly Connecticut Children's Place and Riverview Hospital, respectively) and the Connecticut Juvenile Training School.

DMHAS Education Services

By law, DMHAS provides regular education and special education and related services to eligible residents of DMHAS facilities between ages 18 and 21 (CGS 10-76d (e) (4)).

Justifiable Use of Physical Force

By law, the use of physical force on another person that would otherwise constitute a criminal 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 herself 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 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. With some exceptions, a person may use deadly physical force 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.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Under federal law, an IEP is a written document describing the educational program for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised as federal law requires (34 CFR 300. 320).

Regional Education Service Centers (RESCs)

RESCs supply educational services and programs to boards of education on a regional level so that the boards do not have to provide them individually (CGS 10-66a et seq. ).

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