Aimed at Stopping Restraint Injuries
Kalamazoo Gazette, June 15, 2004
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teenager dies after being restrained at Parchment High School.
A Saginaw student perishes a few months later in what state Rep.
Alexander Lipsey calls "remarkably similar" circumstances.
Lipsey planned today to introduce legislation that would
restrict when and how school personnel can physically restrain
students and require extensive training for those involved.
"The goal here is to provide not only some rationale on proper
restraint practices, but to allow teachers and others in public
schools to feel confident how to respond to certain
circumstances," the Kalamazoo Democrat said at a news conference
"The situation at this point is school personnel don't know what
it is that's appropriate."
Lipsey's bill would revise the state school code to allow
physical restraint only "in an emergency to control
unpredictable, spontaneous behavior ... that poses a clear and
present danger of serious physical harm to that pupil or
others." The "safety and comfort of the pupil shall be
maintained" and any restraint beyond 30 minutes must be by order
of a physician or registered nurse.
Only teachers, administrators and others given in-depth training
may use physical restraint on students, and parents must consent
to it in advance. The bill calls for schools to adopt
comprehensive plans for using restraint.
The Michael Renner Lewis III Law is named for the 15-year-old
who died during the first day of school at Parchment High School
last August. Four adults held Michael to the floor for up to 45
minutes when he became combative after fainting, according to a
$25 million lawsuit filed by his family.
Parchment Public Schools attorneys responded in court documents
that the teen was restrained for the safety of himself and
others and disputed the extent of restraint claimed in the
lawsuit. A trial is scheduled for next year.
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jim Gregart said he will be meeting
with the medical examiner and the detective investigating the
Michael Renner Lewis case during the next few days to make a
ruling on the youth's cause of death.
He said toxicology and lab reports are finally complete. An
autopsy report has ruled the death accidental but has indicated
that restraint, as well as an underlying heart abnormality,
played a role.
Kalamazoo County Sheriff Michael Anderson said he hasn't
submitted a charging request because he wanted to review the
matter jointly with the prosecutor's office before making a
A task force formed by the local NAACP helped develop the
language for Lipsey's bill.
"We still grieve for Michael, and his death is not in vain,"
Carey Whitfield, NAACP legal redress chairman, told Michael's
mother, Elizabeth Johnson, at the Monday news conference.
Johnson, who spoke emotionally about her son's death during an
NAACP news conference in January, declined to comment Monday.
"We miss Michael very much," said family friend Narda McClendon,
who wore a T-shirt bearing a large, color photograph of the
"Some of the things that happened to Michael could happen to any
child in school systems here in Michigan," said McClendon, who
served on the NAACP task force.
The bill is intended to protect students in general school
populations as well as special-needs students, Lipsey said.
The Kalamazoo lawmaker said he believes the bill has bipartisan
support in the House. The final version could be in combination
with a Senate bill introduced by Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom,
R-Temperance, to regulate restraint within other institutions
not including schools, he said.
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