Time for change in Maryland: Legislation to reduce and eliminate restraint and seclusion

It’s time to ban seclusion in all public schools in Maryland (and everywhere) and have a higher level of accountability and oversight. While Maryland currently has some of the better laws in the nation, they are not enough. More must be done to protect the civil and human rights of children in Maryland schools. There is hope on the horizon. New legislation has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to reduce and eliminate the use of restraint and seclusion in Maryland schools.

Two years ago, we wrote an article that showed that restraint and seclusion were increasing in Maryland schools. We saw exceedingly high restraint and seclusion numbers for particular school districts, including Frederick County, Calvert County, Charles County, Hartford County, Garrett County, Washington County, and Carroll County. One of those districts, Calvert County, adopted a new policy and training and subsequently significantly reduced their use of restraint and seclusion. On the other hand, Frederick County was investigated by the Department of Justice and found to be unnecessarily and repeatedly secluding and restraining students as young as five years old in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This investigation led to a settlement agreement in which Frederick County has agreed to prohibit the use of seclusion. Unfortunately, many school districts across the state continue to illegally restrain and seclude children, which is why we need to do more.      

The 2019/20 data was also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the overall trends are very similar to what was seen the proceeding years. Below are a few charts and graphs that illustrate data from the 2019/20 data report.

The latest restraint and seclusion report (2020/21) issued by the Maryland State Department of Education continued to show disturbing trends. While the overall numbers were lower for this reporting cycle, many Maryland students were engaged with instruction in a virtual environment outside of the school building due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of students receiving instruction “in-person” varied throughout the school year across all settings and age spans.

On December 12th, 2021, we sent a letter to Maryland Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury to discuss our concerns about the use of restraint and seclusion in Maryland Schools. We suggested that the Superintendent should take immediate action. We also asked that he immediate guidance and policy to ban the practice of seclusion across the state. On December 30th, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) issued a press release that states that the MSDE promises to prevent the illegal and discriminatory use of restraint and seclusion in schools.  

The Legislation

Proposed legislation in Maryland (2022 legislative session) would end the use of seclusion in all public schools and significantly reduce the use of seclusion in non-public schools. This legislation would be tremendous progress towards reducing and eliminating restraint and seclusion in Maryland schools.  

Here are some of the highlights from the proposed legislation:

  • Prohibits the use of seclusion in all public schools;
  • Significantly limits the use of seclusion in non-public schools;
  • Expanded reporting requirements, including data from individual non-public schools;
  • Requirement for non-public schools to develop a plan for reducing the use of seclusion;
  • Oversight from the Maryland State Department of Education in verifying data when districts report zero instances; 
  • The Maryland State Department of Education is required to not only collect but also to analyze the restraint and seclusion data;
  • The Maryland State Department of Education must make the annual restraint and seclusion report public within 30 days of submission to the general assembly;
  • The Maryland State Department of Education must develop an accountability system to measure compliance;
  • The State Superintendent will be required to identify gaps in training and work with higher education to ensure sufficient training for teachers and staff.

You can review the full legislation here:

The House bill HB 1255 is sponsored by delegates Ebersole, Belcastro, R. Jones, Kaiser, Kerr, Patterson, Pippy, Proctor, Ruth, Thiam, K. Young, and P. Young.

The Senate bill SB 705 is sponsored by Senators Zucker, Hester, and Hough.

Bill text: https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2022RS/bills/sb/sb0705F.pdf 

A huge thanks to Delegate Ebersole and Senator Zucker for your work to get this legislation passed.

We will need your help to get this legislation passed! We will need written and oral testimony in support of the bill, and of course, you can reach out to your Maryland representatives and ask them to support the legislation. Please share this information with others that will support the bill. You can follow the progress of the bills on the Maryland General Assembly website. You are also welcome to reach out to me, and I will share any updates I have received. 

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