The devil is in the details of the Lieutenant
Governor's legislative package to scrub seclusion and restraint
procedures from the state's education system.
At the heart of the 10-bill package is the prohibition of
seclusion rooms and limiting restraint and seclusion only to
emergency situations where a child's behavior poses an immediate
threat to themselves or others. Administrators from around the
state testified before the House Education Committee, pushing
for more leeway for the use of seclusion rooms.
Behavior consultant for Wayne RESA Chris McEVOY, who helped
craft the Michigan Department of Education's 2006 seclusion and
restraint policy on which the current package is based, said he
was concerned about the elimination of seclusion rooms
altogether. McEvoy suggested that a space that would meet the
"normal classroom environment" requirement of the bill would not
be the most appropriate space for calming a child.
Rep. Frank LIBERATI (D-Allen Park), who sponsored two bills in
the package, said that that the bill drafters are working on
amendments to clarify the phrase "normal teaching environment"
to address concerns that may preclude use of rooms or
environments developed specifically or special-needs students.
"A lot of students have stimulus issues, and [lower stimulus
rooms] wouldn't be, shouldn't be prohibited," Liberati said,
describing "step down" rooms with dimmed lighting and
comfortable chairs, or even rooms with swings for soothing.
"We're not trying to prohibit things that are research-based and
time and time again are shown they work."
Angela TELFER, director of Kalamazoo's WoodsEdge Learning
Center, expressed concern that the broad ban on seclusion would
end the use of "quiet rooms" that her facility uses to allow a
student to calm him or herself. Telfer said, this practice is
meant to reward self-calming behavior rather than dominate a
But bill sponsors are unwilling to budge on the outright ban.
Liberati said the room described by Telfer is more like a booth
than a room, being only a few feet wide, and is exactly the
device the legislation is aimed at banning.
"It's been a long time developing the package and there's been a
lot of suggestions for changes," Liberati said. "I think one of
the final sticking points is going to be the use of seclusion
Other improvements to the package in the works include expanding
the training requirements to include paraprofessionals, who
often help teachers handle behavior issues. There is also a
proposal to reinsert use of "emergency intervention plans," -- a
tool included in the Michigan Department of Education's
seclusion and restraint guidelines that was left out of the
original bill draft intending to discourage seclusion and
"We'll be meeting half way on a lot of things, but meeting
halfway on the seclusion rooms I don't see happening," Liberati
Lt. Gov. Brian CALLEY sharply criticized McEvoy's concern that
requiring school districts to create a "generic districtwide
plan" for behavioral intervention would supersede the
individualized behavior plans required by federal law.
"The thing that concerned me most is the characterization as
though (Individual Education Programs) IEPs would somehow be
standardized throughout this process," Calley said. "The reason
that there was a request to have a school-wide policy and not to
set restraint policies for individual students was that its sets
the expectation that restraint will be used on a student ahead
Calley called it a "shocking assertion" that a school-wide
policy would compromise parent involvement. Calley clarified
that the only involvement the package would prohibit is for a
parent to consent to the restraint and seclusion practices
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