Bills to provide positive policy reforms for quality, inclusive education

LANSING, Mich. — Senators Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D–Taylor) and Curtis Hertel Jr. (D–Meridian Township) will soon introduce legislation designed to limit seclusion and restraint in schools. The bills would outline when seclusion and restraint may be properly used, and who can perform the procedures.

“Seclusion and restraint are outdated practices,” said Sen. Hopgood, a member of the Special Education Task Force. “We’re past due on implementing new techniques that are proven to be effective and beneficial for students who depend on a healthy and safe environment in which to learn.”

Seclusion and restraint are procedures that isolate or physically hold students as a response to problematic behavior. Unfortunately, data suggest these practices are overused and potentially dangerous.

Under the proposed legislation, all instances of seclusion and restraint would need to be assessed, monitored and documented. The 10-bill package also would:

  • Establish a positive behavioral support system and intervention plan that would be adopted by all schools;
  • Define appropriate requirements for the use of seclusion and restraint methods in emergency situations, and require reporting of instances;
  • Create reporting requirements associated with the use of these practices;
  • Create best practices for data collection on incidents and school training requirements for emergencies; and,
  • Require districts and intermediate school districts to create policies that align with the statewide plan.

“Seclusion and restraint practices, if done improperly, can cause harm to the students they’re designed to protect and should only be used in emergency situations,” said Sen. Hertel, a member of the Disability Caucus. “The most effective strategy for supporting positive student behavior is to provide a safe environment that promotes dignity for all pupils.”

According to an analysis of the 2011–2012 U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights data conducted by ProPublica and National Public Radio, restraint and seclusion were used — and documented — more than 267,000 times nationwide. In three-quarters of those cases, children with disabilities were the targets.

This legislation follows the recommendations of Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s newly formed Special Education Task Force, a group designed to provide quality, inclusive education that meets the needs of all Michigan youth.