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Bills to end restraint and seclusion of special education students stagnate again

Published Feb. 9, 2012

Three years ago, U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan urged states to revise their rules and laws dealing with the restraint and seclusion of students.

Florida lawmakers have proposed laws to end or strictly curtail the practices. Yet the most they've been able to get on the books is a 2010 statute requiring districts to document and report when they've used the methods to control special education students who are out of control.

The most recent reports from the state, covering August through October 2011, show districts logged in 855 instances of seclusion involving 419 students, with an average time in seclusion of 36 minutes. The districts also reported 2,515 restraint incidents involving 1,297 students.

Bills to do more than report usage, however, continue to struggle to gain traction in the Florida Legislature.

This year, Sen. Anitere Flores has seen her bill win approval in the Pre-K-12 Committee. It's next headed to Children, Families and Elder Affairs on Thursday, and the committee has proposed a substitute measure. But the House version, which was assigned to two subcommittees and one committee in early January, has yet to be heard.

Pasco County officials weren't waiting for legislation to get moving. A team met Wednesday morning to discuss ways they can further reduce the need to use restraint and seclusion in the schools.

ESE director Monica Verra-Tirado said the district is focusing on alternatives to the methods whenever possible, including better reliance on behavior intervention plans with continual monitoring to ensure they are working properly. Pasco schools were listed as having 106 seclusion and 47 restraint cases in the August to October 2011 reporting period.

That compares to Pinellas 168 restraint/125 seclusion, Hillsborough 222 restraint/115 seclusion, and Hernando 13 restraint/less than 10 seclusion.

Posted by Jeff Solochek at 3:37:47 pm on February 08, 2012