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New restrictions on student isolation, restraint are being passed by the Colorado Legislature

New restrictions on student isolation, restraint are being passed by the Colorado Legislature

The bill, aimed at the Colorado governor’s desk, bans handcuffing students in most cases, requires schools to immediately notify parents if they are holding back students, and sets higher standards for school resource staff.

The bill also requires school districts to publicly report much more information about student discipline, tickets, and arrests, as well as to break down numbers by race, ethnicity, disability, and other characteristics of students. The Colorado Department of Education will need to make this data and other information about the school climate available online.

“This is the first step that is changing in the game to make sure we know what experiences our students have in school, including constraints, including discipline,” said Christa Spurgin, executive director of Stand for Children, a supporter of the law. “We have work to do, but the data we collect here will give us a clear idea of ​​how we need to support our schools, our teachers and students in a different way.”

School district officials and special education principals strongly opposed the bill’s requirements for data reporting as overly burdensome and unrealistic, while many Republicans have expressed concerns about the confidentiality of student data.

Amendments to the bill provide for the protection of confidentiality, many of which are already common practice of the state education department, and remove the requirement that districts report all cases of isolation and restraint lasting more than one minute to the state education department.

Instead, the working group will develop rules on when and how to report isolation and restraint. Brett Miles, executive director of the Colorado School Heads Association, said it is important that counties be involved in shaping these requirements.

“It affects the way we treat some of the toughest kids,” he said.

Presented at the end of the session, The 1376 House of Representatives bill passed the last legislative hurdle on Wednesday, the last day of the 2022 Colorado General Assembly. A year ago sponsors have abandoned a much broader reform of school discipline in the face of fierce opposition.

House Act 1376 seeks to create a more conducive school environment for students by shedding more light on disciplinary practices and how they affect colored students, those from low-income families and people with disabilities, and encouraging better approaches. The bill was authored by Democrats Mary Young of Grill and Leslie Herod of Denver and State Senator Faith Winter of Westminster, as well as Republican Senator Kevin Priola of Henderson.

The bill calls on the state police supervisory board to adopt best practices for school resource officers and to appoint only officers who wish to work with youth in the school setting. School leaders will play a greater role in evaluating the performance of these officers.

More controversial aspects of the bill concern isolation, which means locking a student in a room, and restrictions that the law defines as placing a student in physical mode for more than five minutes. School districts say these techniques are used only as a last resort and for the safety of students and teachers.

Lawyers for students with disabilities, who are much more likely than their peers to experience isolation and restraint, say these activities often injure children and exacerbate difficult behavior. They want educators to be better trained in de-escalation techniques to first and foremost resist behavior.

The 2017 law already prohibits dangerously exposed restrictions and requires school districts to conduct an annual review of their use of isolation and restrictions.

But they should not publish this information publicly or share it with the Colorado Department of Education.

A Chalk investigation found wide differences in how school districts tracked and reported this information. As districts are not required to submit their annual reviews to any government agencies, little is observed.

And so far, when government regulators have detected violations, they have did not have the authority to order corrective action.

As a key change, the bill gives law enforcement the state education department the right to change district practices if it harms students.

Also students cannot be handcuffed at school except when they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are under arrest. In secluded rooms there should be a window or an opportunity to watch the children on video to make sure they don’t hurt themselves while they are alone.

And schools will now have to notify parents of any restrictions that last more than one minute and how many times a student is shackled in one day. Lawyers told lawmakers that parents sometimes find out their child is being held in a hold only when they see bruises.

Spurgin said advocates should be involved in the process of drafting rules for data reporting to ensure that the bill provides meaningful information about student discipline and racial and other disparities.

The State Board of Education pays special attention to student privacy and edits significant information from large data sets to ensure that no one can work in the opposite order to conclude, for example, that two black students in a school predominantly for whites were rejected. The result can be fields of empty squares where there should be numbers.

Spurgin said she believed privacy can be balanced with data acquisition that schools and communities can act to get more money, education and mental health support for Colorado schools.

“At least we’ll have a clearer idea of ​​what that experience is [with discipline and arrest] they are looking for students of different races, ethnicities, disabilities and genders, ”she said. “And then we need to see what resources and training we can give our schools to create a better climate for our students.”

Head of the Bureau Eric Meltzer covers education policy and policies and oversees education coverage at Chalkbeat Colorado. Contact Erica at emeltzer@chalkbeat.org.

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