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Minnesota Legislature

Disabled student restraints

Published (2/24/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
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School employees with specific training can physically restrain out-of-control students with special needs. The authorization to do so may be renewed for the next academic year, if HF2293 passes.

Education staff uses a technique called “prone restraints” that involves holding the student face-down until he or she becomes calmer. The law states that prone restraints may only be used with the minimum amount of time and the force it takes to ensure the student or another person will not be injured.

Members of the House Education Reform Committee debated the need for these restraints Feb. 23. The committee laid the bill over so the sponsor, Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls),can continue refining the language.

Testifiers were divided on the benefit of prone restraints for violent students with mental disabilities. Sue Abderholden, executive director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota, asked the committee to support the bill, allowing for experts to further refine the practice.

“The solution isn’t to ban restraints at this time, as much as I don’t like them. It is to continue to develop alternatives. And I would go a step further — a more robust plan,” she said.

Other mental health advocates voiced opposition to the bill. Dan Stewart, supervising attorney at the Minnesota Disability Law Center, said prone restraints could injure students. He also claimed that, too frequently, school staff uses this as an alternative to addressing real issues surrounding disabilities.

“If we can’t stop the underlying behavior, we are only kicking the can down the road,” Stewart said.

Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka) worried about reports that education staff is frequently injured during violent outbursts. He called these injuries “intolerable” and questioned whether a solution could be found to reduce use of prone restraints, while still protecting educators on the job.

The companion is SF1917, sponsored by Sen. Pam Wolf (R-Spring Lake Park). It awaits action in the Senate Education Committee.

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