Politics & Government

Board of Education advances new regulations for seclusion and restraint

The Kansas Board of Education gave initial approval Tuesday to new regulations on the use of seclusion and restraint on students in emergency situations.

The Legislature passed HB 2170, also known as the “Freedom from Unsafe Restraint and Seclusion Act,” during the most recent legislative session. Gov. Sam Brownback signed it into law in May.

The act required the Board of Education to adopt new regulations governing the use of emergency safety interventions, such as placing a child in seclusion, and to give parents the ability to take action when they feel such measures have been improperly used.

The new regulations set up a procedure for parents to request an investigation if they think emergency safety interventions have been improperly used on their children. Local school boards would have the power to order “corrective actions … by the district if the local board deems such actions necessary.”

The regulations also enable parents to request an administrative review by the state board to determine whether a school district has violated a law passed by the Legislature.

The board approved the regulations by a unanimous 10-0 vote. They will go to the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Administration for review before being implemented in March.

The law applies to all students but is specifically meant to empower parents of special-education students.

The law states that “Emergency safety interventions shall be used only when a student presents a reasonable and immediate danger of physical harm to such student or others with the present ability to effect such physical harm.”

Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, and Rep. Connie O’Brien, R-Tonganoxie, sent a letter to the board last week encouraging them to include this language in the regulations it adopts.

The regulations reference the new law but do not directly quote from it.

“Referencing the new law within the regulation is clearly not enough to satisfy this requirement,” Rubin and O’Brien state in their letter.

Rubin, who sponsored the legislation, said the purpose of the law is to ensure that restraints and seclusion are used only to prevent a student from harming himself or herself or another student and are not used for disciplinary purposes. He said that needs to be made clear in the regulations.

Rubin’s letter upset special-education teachers who say the perception that restraints and seclusion have been misused or overused is inaccurate. A state task force is studying the subject.

Terry Collins, a representative with the Kansas Association of Special Education, accused Rubin of trying to “short circuit” the work of the task force by telling the state board to “cut and paste” his legislation into the regulations. Collins accused Rubin of trying to spread misinformation and bully the board.

Rubin dismissed these claims.

“The special ed teachers or the board or whoever can have all the heartburn they want with that, but we are the Legislature – they have to comply with the specific language of the law,” Rubin said.

Both Collins and Rubin are members of the task force studying the issue.

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