AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas Rep. Mary González, D- El Paso, this session introduced a bill that would ban teachers and other school employees from restraining students on the ground at school, specifically those with special needs.
It comes after parents and advocacy groups demanded changes from lawmakers – and several promised legislation zeroing in on concerns from families with students receiving special needs services.
As well as making it illegal to restrain students on the ground, the bill would also ban employees from using specific techniques such as prone and supine restraint – which involves staff taking a student to the ground either facing up or down.
In the U.S. Department of Education’s restraints and seclusion resource document, it states, “prone restraints or other restraints that restrict breathing should never be used because they can cause serious injury or death.”
But there is no specific law in Texas banning the move in school settings.
“Tragically those restraints are happening more and more violently to students with disabilities,” Disability Rights Texas Senior Policy Specialist Steve Aleman said.
González said she authored the bill, in part, because of a KXAN investigation into a restraint last year at a Round Rock Independent School District school for students with disabilities.
The restraint captured on the school’s surveillance cameras showed a school administrator throwing a 14-year-old boy into the wall of a ‘cool-down room’ and then restraining him on the ground.
“I just think about how our schools exist or do exist, for our most vulnerable kids to get the support they need, and when I see this video – it just gives me some red flags and this is why we are doing this piece of legislation with Disability Rights Texas,” Rep. González said.
The restraint was not classified as supine or prone, according to school records. We reached out to RRISD, specifically asking about the incident shown in the video and its policy on prone and supine restraint.
The district said its investigation into the incident has not been re-opened and that its staff uses crisis prevention and intervention training that focuses on verbal de-escalation first. If restraint is needed, the most common technique would be the “Child Control Position,” which is a short-duration hold meant to cause no injury or pain.
The TEA investigation into the school administrator in the video is ongoing, according to records published on the state agencies’ teacher look-up database.
Professor of Special Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Reece Peterson said he could not determine from the video whether the student was in a prone or supine position in the video.
“However, the way the boy was thrown against the wall was inappropriate,” Peterson said after viewing the video from the KXAN report. “I also did not see any de-escalation procedures employed.”