DENVER (KDVR) — Even as the clock winds down at the state Capitol, lawmakers continue to introduce bills. Thursday, members of the House’s education committee will hear testimony on a newly-introduced measure that hopes to put an end to kids being restrained for bad behavior in schools.
Lawmakers sponsoring it say it comes after hearing firsthand experiences from kids who have spent time in seclusion or handcuff restraint.
Lawmakers leading the bipartisan effort say right now, there are not many rules regarding restraining students in schools. They are hoping to add more oversight with this measure.
“Lots of kids with trauma histories are being restrained and secluded,” Dr. Ross Greene said.
Greene is a clinical child psychologist. He said restraining and secluding children in schools is a far too common practice in the U.S., and Colorado is not exempt from the list.
“Last I looked, it was in the neighborhood of about 1,000 per year according to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights database. The problem of course is that often, and I don’t know if Colorado is one of them, states often underreport their numbers,” Greene said.
Lawmakers say Colorado is indeed a state that could be doing a better job of keeping track of how many students are restrained. If this measure passes: starting with the 2023 school year, the state’s Department of Education would have to collect this information from schools across the state.
“Demographic data will absolutely be collected,” prime sponsor and state Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver said. “When we are looking at data collections in schools, not only are we looking at who is being restrained, we are also looking at discipline data by demographic as well. Are kids of color more likely to be suspended or expelled? Are they more likely to not receive different options?”
The bill would outlaw handcuffing students unless they pose a direct threat to themselves and others in the schools. A similar measure was brought to the Capitol with Herod sponsoring it last year but it died, lacking enough support from law enforcement. Though it comes at the last minute, she said she believes there is enough support to get it passed.
“That just can’t happen in our schools unless a very high level criteria is met,” Herod said. “We have been working with school resource officers, teachers, school districts and our families to craft a bill that really does work for the school districts, I’m glad to be able to present that.”
The bill also includes provisions about seclusion or quiet rooms, calling for rooms across to state to have at least one window in them for teachers to monitor students.