Restraining students should be limited in Texas schools to prevent abuse, advocates urge

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Lawmakers want tighter rules on restraints that often impact students with disabilities more than peers.

Concerns about students being abused or harmed because of restraint practices in schools prompted Texas lawmakers to push for tighter regulations of such practices as advocates call for more accountability.

On Monday, advocates called for state action to define what instances justify the use of restraints in schools and what is considered abuse. Meanwhile, some legislators outlined their plans to prohibit some methods of restraining, including by pinning students on the ground or in handcuffs.

Jeanna TenBrink said at a news conference in Austin that her daughter Leah, now 16, would come home from her Houston-area school with scratches and bruises. The girl, who was diagnosed with autism and other disabilities, had been in a special education class when her mother requested video of her classroom.

“I witnessed teachers cursing, provoking and demeaning my daughter,” said TenBrink, the founder of the advocacy group Project LEAH (Leaders Ending Abuse and Harm). “I witnessed two teachers holding Leah facedown on the floor with both arms behind her back as her legs lifted in the air as she struggled to breathe.”

Such restraints had long-term effects on her daughter, TenBrink said. Her once silly, vibrant daughter stopped enjoying going to school and became withdrawn, preferring to be alone.

Texas law allows school staff to physically restrain or immobilize students, even those with disabilities.

More than 8,000 students in grades K-12 were physically restrained during the 2017-18 school year — the most recent year data is available — according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Many worry those numbers are low after concerns about underreporting of instances of restraint.

Though students with disabilities make up about 10% of the state’s student population, they experience more than 90% of restraints reported in Texas public schools, according to Disability Rights Texas.


Read the full article, Restraining students should be limited in Texas schools to prevent abuse, advocates urge, on the Dallas Morning News website