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New Protections against Abusive Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities Pass the House and Senate and Head to the Governor's Desk

Monday, May 03, 2010

This effort, sponsored by Senator Andy Gardiner and Representatives Dorothy Hukill and Marcelo Llorente, represents the Florida legislature’s first enactment of law that addresses widespread concern about the use of seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities in public school. HB 1073 has passed the House and Senate and heads now to the Governor’s desk.

The bill:

  • Establishes standards and procedures regarding the use, monitoring, documentation, and reporting of seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities.
  • Prohibits school personnel from using a mechanical or manual physical restraint that restricts student’s breathing.
  • Prohibits school personnel from closing, locking, or blocking a student in a room that is unlit and does not meet rules of the State Fire Marshal for seclusion time-out rooms.
  • Requires schools to prepare incident reports within 24 hours and to provide notification to a parent or guardian.
  • Requires schools to send the incident reports to the parent or guardian, principal, district special education director, and state special education bureau chief for monitoring purposes.

Sen. Gardiner explained the importance of this effort and told the Senate chamber: “We’ve had stories and testimony of children with disabilities who were restrained and put in dark rooms and no one knew.” He explained that by passing the measure: “At the very least, we will provide almost immediate notice to parents so they can correct the situation.” Senator Gardiner also explained how these measures will not only solve the problem of parents not being notified, but will ensure that policy makers can track “…what type of restraints or seclusion [are being] used so that we can come back next year and potentially make changes in what [else] we want particularly to do away with.”

Likewise, Representative Hukill explained: “I will continue to advocate for children with disabilities to ensure their safety, while maintaining a positive learning environment. This bill has gone through a long process of review and consideration and I am pleased that Florida is heading in the right direction to enhance protections for our most vulnerable children.”

Disability Rights Florida Executive Director Bob Whitney commented: “Passage of these bills is a major step in an ongoing process to fully address concerns about the dangerous and inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities in our schools. An incredible effort by many over several years has resulted in the establishment of these new protections and all those involved should be proud of this outcome. Of course, there is much left for all of us to do to ensure implementation, compliance and to assist policy makers to address additional issues in future years.”

In 2008, this legislative effort was initiated by the Florida Families Against Restraint and Seclusion, Disability Rights Florida and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council. The effort grew to include nearly 30 non-profit groups, state and local medical associations, and state professional associations. By session end, the effort had garnered the support of several school districts and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

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governor, legislature, restraint and seclusion, special education,

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