On Thursday, the Committee took up H.409 with Representative Taylor, who had served six years as the behavior interventionist at Milton Elementary School and is currently the Behavior Services Coordinator there.”
Chairman Conlon suggested that some basic background information was needed to understand these rules. As a baseline, Taylor thought they could all agree that “we want to move towards a school environment where no physical intervention ever needs to be done.” The bill tightens the definitions in some places to remove “subjective” wordings such as “an imminent risk of harm.” Some discretion may be necessary, but it pays to look at and review these things occasionally, he asserted.
After a quick walk through of the language, Representative Austin asked if the rules specifically require two staff to be involved at any time restraints are applied. She also wondered what the reporting requirements were to parents. Under current rule, it seems that reporting to parents by end of day is required along with notifications to the superintendent of the district and the Agency of Education.
Representative Stone asked about training for staff, explaining that prone restraints can be used in a hospital but most others are prohibited because of the potential asphyxiation.
Taylor explained that the rules do not get in the details, but they do have specific trainings. Trainings for behavioral interventionists are week-long, full-day courses leading to certification along with annual recertifications with one day of training. He noted that these are “strict and intense.”
He went on to make the clear observation that what is best for students is always what is less traumatic, so choices are important and also more effective than restraints. Restraints for students who have past trauma are especially concerning, he noted.
Conlon observed that with more oversight by staff on the 4500 rules paperwork, more robust training, and improved oversight they may be able to “thread the needle.” He described this as “definitely a tricky situation” and he doesn’t want to “remove tools that are, in the worst circumstances, necessary.” Taylor agreed with this.
There was quite a bit of back and forth about how to strike the right balance around this as well as reporting requirements. For example, hallway fights may or may not trigger the current rules if students have to be forcibly separated. There were also concerns about notification to parents when an incident happens (even a non-violent one). Several examples were given where schools failed to do this.
Conlon closed by thanking Taylor and acknowledging that these are complex issues that no one wants to dive into headlong without understanding the material well. Taylor commented this is a topic that “creates lots of emotion” and the Committee needs to be mindful of that as they move ahead.