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Florida: Lawmakers look to limiting restraint on disabled students

Jan 13, 2022, CBS47, Jacksonville, FL: Lawmakers seek to reduce restraint incidents of special needs students. But does it go far enough?

Parents of special needs kids are concerned their children may be handcuffed, zip-tied, or worse while they’re at school, but Florida lawmakers are proposing new legislation that seeks to limit when mechanical restraints can be used and who can use them. But at least one Clay County grandmother doesn’t believe the new legislation goes far enough. The legislation is the latest change lawmakers are pushing to ensure students, especially those with special needs, are handled appropriately. It all harkens back to an Orlando arrest in 2020. The body camera footage of the arrest of 6-year-old Kaia Rolle, who was zip-tied and put in the back of a patrol car put the issue of child arrests on state lawmakers’ radar, especially when it comes to special needs students. In the first four months of this school year, there were 2,175 incidents where special needs students in Florida were restrained. In about 80 of those incidents, mechanical restraints like handcuffs, zip ties or straitjackets were used, but Florida lawmakers are looking to limit how often the restraints are used and who can use them. “We want to make sure that no parent sends their child to school and the child comes home with bruises or the child comes home with some kind of distress because of something that could have be avoided,” said State Representative Rene Plasencia. Plasencia is sponsoring a bill this year that would ensure only school resource and safety officers, guardians and security guards are authorized to use mechanical restraints on special needs students. It also only allows their use if the student’s behavior is causing an imminent risk of serious injury to themselves or others…. Lawmakers hope by limiting those with the authority, better judgment calls will be made. It’s that hope that earned the legislation unanimous bipartisan approval in its first committee stop Thursday morning. The bill still has two more stops before a full vote on the House floor. It also still has to clear all three committee stops in the Florida Senate.


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