An autistic 9 year old boy was repeatedly trapped in a converted supply closet by his principal. He begged his parents not to send him back to school.
Testimony like this, and others deemed “horror stories,” by one Senator, were heard by the Virginia State Senate on Tuesday. Lawmakers were voting on a bill that would require the Board of Education to adopt regulations on the use of seclusion and restraint in public schools in the Commonwealth.
It was stories like these, of children locked in dark closets and makeshift holding cells, and forcibly restrained by duct tape, that led the Virginia Commission on Youth to issue a study on the use of restraint and seclusion by public schools in our Commonwealth. The study found that though there are 19 states with policies and procedures related to the use of restraint and seclusions for all children and 32 states with policies related to use of restraint and seclusion for children with disabilities, Virginia is 1 of 10 states with only informal guidelines for the establishment of restraint and seclusion policies in local school districts. These guidelines were not mandatory and merely provided suggestions as to how policies surrounding the use of restraint and seclusion should be formed.
This study led to the creation of the bill discussed on Tuesday. This bill would require the board of education to adopt regulations on the use of seclusion and restrain in public elementary and secondary schools in the commonwealth. The bill requires that such regulations incorporate certain existing guidance documents; include definitions of terms, criteria for use, restrictions for use, training requirements, notifications requirements, reporting requirements, and follow up requirements; and address distinctions between certain student populations.
The Bill passed easily in both the Senate and the House. The next step will be for the Governor to sign it.
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