Local News

Lawmakers Consider Bill Limiting Restraint Of Students In Schools

Posted April 23, 2003

— If a student is a threat to himself or others, where does a teacher draw the line in restraining the child? What is acceptable force and what is abuse?

Then, one day the Jasinskis ran into a school staffer at a local supermarket. They were horrified to learn Tommy was routinely being shut in a dark bathroom when he became agitated.

"They've been putting him in the dark? And that staff person looked at me and said, 'Oh my God. You didn't know?'" Sue Jasinski said.

"It was like an answer to what we'd been searching for and then anger that it had ben going on so long," said Tom Jasinski.

"By treating my son the way that they did, they increased the problems," Sue Jasinski said.

North Carolina advocates for the disabled documented various cases where children were physically or emotionally hurt when restrained or secluded in schools.

"Sitting on children and restraining them, taping children's mouths. We've got stories of duct tape and being tied to chairs. There are just too many things that will lead to more serious injury," said Ellen Russell of the Special Needs Federation.

As a result

Senate Bill 977

was filed. The legislation would mandate teachers be trained and annually certified on the safest forms of restraint, used only as a last resort. The bill would also require more detailed classroom documentation to enforce accountability.

The

North Carolina School Boards Association

will try to convince lawmakers to kill this bill. They contend in the current budget crisis schools cannot afford to train all teachers about restraint. They argue it would bog down teachers with more paperwork. They also believe it overregulates and could take away a school's ability to react quickly to maintain order.

"You could have a child in a classroom who pulls a gun on another student and unless that teacher in that classroom is trained under this bill, they cannot restrain that child," said Leanne Winner of the state School Boards Assocation.

Bill supporters argue the longer teachers go without training on the safest restraint methods, the more likely students will get hurt.

The Jasinksis have filed a lawsuit against

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

over their son's treatment. In court documents, school attorneys admit Tommy was placed in a darkened bathroom. However, they argue the practice did not violate guidelines established by autism experts.

The Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing on the restraint bill Wednesday morning.

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