ACLU of Maine Urges Legislators to Resist Rolling Back Limits on Extreme Physical Discipline in Schools

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
February 20, 2013 11:00 am

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Group Responds to Calls to Modify Carefully Crafted Rule Limiting the Use of Student Restraints

February 20, 2013

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AUGUSTA – The ACLU of Maine today urged legislators to reject emergency legislation that would roll back limits on the use of physical restraints in classroom. LD 243 would make changes to Maine Department of Education Rule 33, which governs physical restraint and seclusion practices. The ACLU argued that teachers have the tools the need to keep order and safety in the classroom and that today’s proposal seems to be grounded in misinterpretation of the existing guidelines for student restraints.

“The safety of teachers and students is paramount, and it was a guiding principle when the current rules for physical discipline were written,” said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine. “But restraining a student is an extreme measure and should only be used in extreme circumstances.”

In 2010, the Forecaster ran a series of articles exposing shocking abuses of children in Maine’s public schools. According to the article, students were subjected to physical restraint and placed in seclusion by educators who were not trained in such extreme disciplinary procedures. Parents were rarely notified when their children had been restrained or secluded.

In the wake of this revelation, the Department of Education, in collaboration with stakeholders, revised Rule 33, which governs physical restraint and seclusion practices. Parents, educators, law enforcement, disability rights groups and other stakeholders weighed in at public hearings and during a period of public comment.

“Emergency legislation is not the answer here. Rule 33 was crafted as part of a thoughtful year-long process involving key stakeholders, educators and the Department of Education and it should not be gutted by legislators in a matter of days,” said Bellows. “We should focus on educating people about what the rule actually says and does, not undermine it with emergency legislation that disregards the entire process.”

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