Tennessee made the news this week with a legislative bill that would empower a “school resource officer, school security officer, or other law enforcement officer who is trained and certified for completing a behavior intervention training program may use a mechanical restraint on a student receiving special education services in an emergency situation,” HB0127 reads.
In this Tennessee bill mechanical restraint means handcuffs for kids receiving special education services. Proposed by state representative Greg Martin, a Republican from Hamilton County, the bill expands the authority to handcuff students from only school resource officers to include school security officers.
Martin said he was asked to submit the bill on behalf of the local superintendent. In Tennessee resource officers are assigned to a school by the local law enforcement agency while the schools hire their own security officers.
Forget the fact that anyone can restrain a child as young as a first grader with handcuffs in his state and consider Martin’s reasoning. Ostensibly, he suggested this is about protecting students from self-harm and/or protecting others.
“Cain slew Abel. Children can be violent,” Martin argued in the face of pushback from his fellow legislators.
Compare this horrifyingly callous, harmful and degrading treatment of kids with behavioral issues to Vermont’s policies and the thoughtful work currently underway in the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) where a task force and the board’s policy subcommittee have been focusing on addressing the use of prone and supine restraints and seclusion in district schools. There has been a moratorium on the use of prone and supine restraints in HUUSD schools since the beginning of this school year as the policy is under review.
According to Vermont Agency of Education’s Rule 4500, mechanical restraints are prohibited in Vermont schools and the use of physical restraint in general is only permitted: “When a student's behavior poses an imminent and substantial risk of physical injury to the student or others.”
Our local school district is taking these harmful and potentially dangerous tactics seriously, as should the rest of the country. No student deserves the trauma and risk of physical injury that mechanical restraints can cause.
-LAL and ENF