Sens. O’Brien and Jones, Lt. Gov. Calley help enact reform ending schools’ use of seclusion and restraint of students

LANSING, Mich. — Teachers in Michigan’s public school districts would be trained to properly place students into seclusion or in physical restraint in emergency situations.

Senator Margaret O’Brien and Sen. Rick Jones worked with Lt. Gov. Brian Calley to push the reform measures through the Legislature. O’Brien cited a 2003 Kalamazoo case in which 15-year-old Michael Renner Lewis III died from prolonged physical restraint as a prime example for why changes are needed.

“On August 25, 2003, a mother sent her child to school. He never returned home,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “Limiting the use of restraint and seclusion and training school staff in the proper way to implement these techniques in specific emergencies will help ensure our students’ safety and stop tragedies from happening again.”

House Bills 5409-5417 would require the Department of Education to develop a statewide policy regarding the use of seclusion and physical restraint in public schools.

Under the bills, emergency seclusion and emergency physical restraint could be used only in emergencies as defined in the package; every use of seclusion and restraint and the reason for using them would have to be documented and communicated to the building administration and to the parents; and schools would have to provide awareness training on seclusion and restraint to all school employees who have regular contact with students and more specific training to key employees on the use of these techniques in emergencies.

The legislation stems from recommendations developed from public hearings and a survey conducted by Calley on how to address issues facing special needs students in the state.

“I want to thank Lieutenant Governor Calley and Senator O’Brien for their leadership in ensuring that schools are safe places for all Michigan children to learn,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “This reform will ensure that all educators are properly trained on how to deal with students who might be endangering themselves or others. If seclusion is necessary, it must be an appropriate room — not a broom closet.”