In a move supported by the statewide League of Education Voters, disabilities advocates, parents, educators and others, the Washington State House Education Committee passed House Bill 1479 out of committee today.
If passed by the full Legislature and approved Gov. Jay Inslee, the bill would eliminate the practice of isolating students in schools and ban the use of mechanical and chemical restraints on studentsin Washington State. House Committee staff said House lawmakers have not yet decided the next steps for the bill, which is mirrored in companion Senate Bill 5559.
Practices harm students
“The practice causes lasting harm to students,” says Arik Korman, communications director for the League of Education Voters.“Restraint and isolation are punitive and penal experiences for students and can have lasting harmful effects.
Korman also noted “There are egregious disparities in the practices of restraint and isolation against Black students, multi-racial students, low-income students, unhoused students, students in foster care, and students with disabilities.”
3,500 students impacted in 2020
In a video to parents called “Restraint & Isolation Harms Students,” OSPI Director of School Health and Safety Lee Collyer reported that during the 2020 school year more than 25,000 incidents of student restraint and isolation were used on 3,500 students in Washington public schools. Of those, 80 percent were used on students in grades K-5. According to OSPI data, 91% of restraints are experienced by students with disabilities, although Collyer said in his presentation that that number “is probably a little high.” More likely 75-80% of restaurants and isolation tactics are perpetrated on students with disabilities.”
And yet, there is “no compelling evidence that Washington students benefit from these continued practices,” says Eric Holzapfel, league director of field and community engagement.”
“Restraint and isolation are supposed to be rare practices, but they are not. Isolation rooms and restraining students must only be used when a student’s behavior poses an imminent likelihood of serious harm,” Holzapfel wrote in a league call to action “However, isolation and restraint of students are commonly used as classroom management tools to induce compliance or otherwise punish or discipline students in violation of state law.
What the bill would do
House Bill 1479 would protect Washington students and equip schools and educators to better address student needs by:
- Prohibiting isolation of students, and prohibiting the use of mechanical and chemical restraint, by all public school employees and non-public agencies (NPA) operating special education programs for students with disabilities
- Prohibiting the construction of new isolation rooms, and removing or repurposing existing isolation rooms by January 1, 2024
- Ensuring that Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) do not include restraint as a planned behavior intervention
- Clarifying the definitions for school staff of what isolation and restraint are
- Improving isolation and restraint data reporting requirements
- Ensuring that professional development and technical assistance is available to the school districts that need the most support
To share your thoughts with lawmakers on House Bill 1479 or Senate Bill 5559, contact your state representatives . The League of Education Voters also offers ways to reach out on these bills on its “take action” website page.
More at Seattle’s Child:
“YES, isolating students IS traumatizing. I know.”