If the bill is signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, schools will have to use positive interventions, with few exceptions.
After passing the House on a 71-27 vote Thursday, a bill to limit how often teachers physically restrain or isolate misbehaving students will now head to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.
House Bill 1240 will make clear that restraining or forcibly secluding any student — including special-needs children — is illegal in schools except in emergencies, when serious harm to another person seems imminent, or if parents explicitly agree to it. The bill requires teachers to use other tactics to keep students under control, said Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, the bill’s main sponsor.
But a last-minute change to the bill has left at least one advocate uneasy.
Arzu Forough, founder of Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy, said she supports the bill overall, and thinks it will decrease how often teachers restrain or isolate students — practices some parents say can harm students physically and make them afraid to come to school.
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But Forough questions a phrase added to the legislation by state Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, that allows a school to plan to seclude and restrain some children when necessary, if a parent or guardian agrees to it.
For Forough, removing a child from the classroom or physically restraining the child at any time — no matter how extreme the behavior — has no educational value. Allowing schools to use those techniques as part of regular behavior plans doesn’t make any sense, she said.
She said parents are sometimes coerced into agreeing to such plans, and she had hoped this bill would end the planned use of restraint and isolation.
Pollet says it still will. He views the last-minute change as a message to districts to include parents more closely in deliberations over how to handle special-needs students’ behavior.
Before the vote on the House floor Thursday, Pollet said the amendment does not change the fundamental point of the bill, which is to permit isolation or restraint only “when necessary to control spontaneous behavior that poses an imminent likelihood of serious harm.” Under his bill, schools must exhaust positive interventions first.
Pollet, who sponsored the bill along with eight other Democrats and three Republicans, said it will also strengthen the state’s requirements for how schools track and report how often teachers or other staff restrain and isolate students.