“There is no place in Maryland’s schools for the use of seclusion”

On Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022 there was a hearing in the Maryland Senate for SB 705, which would prohibit seclusion in all public schools in Maryland and significantly reduce the use of seclusion in nonpublic schools.  I attended and provided testimony in support of the bill and was joined by several others including our State Superintendent Mohammad Choudhary.

Guy Stephens providing testimony on SB 705

Superintendent Choudhary came out in strong support of the bill, even said he would like to see it go further.  The bill has a lot of positive momentum, and I am hopeful that it will be supported and become law.  

We thank Superintendent Choudhary for his leadership and strong support for SB 705. We look forward to the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Maryland State Department of Education to reduce and eliminates these harmful and outdated crisis management approaches.

Here is an excerpt from Superintendent Choudhary’s testimony and the full document is attached.  

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) supports with amendments Senate Bill (SB) 705 – Education – Physical Restraint and Seclusion – Limitations, which prohibits the use of physical restraint and seclusion as behavioral interventions, except in specific circumstances. The bill adds data requirements to a current report, and adds a duty to investigate instances when one student is physically restrained or secluded more than 10 times in a school year.

Research consistently shows that there is no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective in reducing the occurrence of the problem behaviors that frequently precipitate the use of such techniques. The MSDE supports the provisions of this bill that will reduce the use of the techniques, but expresses a strong request to the committee to strengthen the proposal in critical ways.

Superintendent Choudhary provides testimony in the Maryland Senate.

There is no place in Maryland’s schools for the use of seclusion. MSDE supports the provisions of this bill that eliminate the practice in local school systems, but the bill does not go far enough. By excluding non-public schools from this ban on seclusion, the State will leave students in those schools vulnerable to abuse.

All but the most limited forms of restraint, in the most extreme and rare situations, should also be banned in Maryland’s schools.

MSDE appreciates the portion of the bill that codifies existing regulations by limiting the situations in which restraint can be used to those in which it is necessary to protect the student or another individual from imminent serious physical harm and other, less intrusive nonphysical interventions have failed or been demonstrated to be inappropriate for the student. However, the bill should also include clear parameters around the types of restraint that cannot be used in any case. For your reference, a bill before the United States Congress lays out strong and clear definitions of physical restraint that outlines the variety of restraints that cannot and should not be used in schools. MSDE believes that this proposed federal definition and list of prohibitions, as well as existing Maryland COMAR 13A.08.04.05(A)(1)(f) prohibitions, should be explicitly adopted within the bill.

Accountability and corrective action is important in making progress on this issue. As a first step, the MSDE supports the bill’s provisions to add to the current collection of the data in ways that will enable further disaggregation, require local school systems to review student cases in public and nonpublic schools if a student is physically restrained more than 10 times in a school year, and increase MSDE involvement in the provision of training and professional development regarding positive behavioral interventions. However, MSDE believes that there needs to be stronger accountability measures for (i) schools that violate the provisions of the bill, and the school systems in which they operate and (ii) schools in which students are restrained 10 or more times and the school systems in which they operate, including a requirement for a systemic, evidence-based corrective action plan.

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