The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) posted an article on their website on October 6th regarding a new law in Maryland (HB1255) which aims to reduce and eliminate restraint and seclusion in Maryland schools. In the article, the unspecified author states, “The definitions in the law are riddled with exceptions, making application difficult.” The article does not specify which definitions they believe are problematic or propose any ideas or solutions.
At the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint, we are concerned that the article, which is from the MSEA legal team seems to raise unspecified concerns. As the introduction to the article acknowledges, the new law bans seclusion and limits when restraints may be used in public schools. As the article states the law prohibits the use of seclusion as a behavioral health intervention in public schools and limits the use of physical restraint except in certain circumstances. It is critical that if MSEA has concerns that they are communicated so that clear messaging can be provided to educators around the state. We reached out to the MSEA leadership team in an effort to collaborate towards solutions. Below is the letter we sent.
Ms. Bost, Ms. Dudley, and Mr. Johnson,
My name is Guy Stephens. I am the founder and executive director of the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint (AASR). AASR is a community of over 20,000 parents, self-advocates, teachers, school administrators, paraprofessionals, attorneys, related service providers, and others working together to influence change in supporting children whose behaviors are often misunderstood. Our mission is to inform changes in policy and practice to reduce and eliminate the use of punitive discipline and outdated behavioral management approaches and end the school-to-prison pipeline. Our vision is safer schools for students, teachers, and staff.
In an article posted on your Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) website on October 6th regarding a new law in Maryland, the unspecified author states, “The definitions in the law are riddled with exceptions, making application difficult.” Having worked to support this new law (HB1255) and provide input to MSDE on guidance, your assertion concerns me. If there are definitions that are unclear to your legal team, I think they must be addressed in guidance and/or future legislation.
The legislation intends to eliminate the use of seclusion in all public schools, reduce the use of seclusion in nonpublic schools, reduce the use of restraint in all schools, and add additional accountability and oversight. The goal is clearly to reduce and eliminate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools throughout the state. It is concerning to hear that MSEA feels that the definitions are “riddled with exemptions.” If there is a lack of clarity that MSEA believes makes application difficult for educators, we must work towards solutions to provide clarity.
Restraint and seclusion are outdated approaches to crisis management that put students, teachers, and staff at risk of significant trauma and injury. As you are undoubtedly aware, hundreds of children have died in schools due to the use of physical restraint. Teachers and staff are at the greatest risk of injury when they go “hands on” to restrain or seclude students. I am sure we support common goals to create safer schools for students, teachers, and staff. There are far better ways to support students that reduce the reliance on crisis management strategies. I would love to arrange a time to meet with someone from your team so we can understand your concerns and how we might collaborate to provide clarity to educators throughout the state.
Founder & Executive Director
Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint