Students with autism and other conditions that cause behavior disorders would be protected from the use of harsh physical restraint procedures under proposed new regulations being considered by the Kansas State Board of Education.
The board will hold a public hearing on the proposed new regulations when it meets Tuesday at the Department of Education office, 120 SE 10th Ave. in Topeka. The board could vote to adopt the proposed regulations as early as Wednesday.
Currently the state maintains guidelines that schools are encouraged, but not mandated, to follow. But the new regulations on “emergency safety interventions” would go further by requiring all school districts to adopt formal policies that conform to specific standards. They would also require schools to provide training in the use of those interventions and to document every instance when they are used.
The new regulations grew out of hearings at the Kansas Legislature last year where parents of behavioral disorder students pushed for legislation to ban the use of certain seclusion and restraint procedures. They recounted stories of school officials using harsh, and potentially dangerous, restraint procedures, as well as the frequent use of isolation rooms as a way of controlling their children's behavior. They also said schools were reluctant to put their policies in writing, and often failed to notify parents of instances when those procedures were used.
Special education advocates, on the other hand, stressed that teachers are held responsible for the safety of all children in their classrooms, and they warned that passage of new laws or regulations banning the use of seclusion and restraint could leave school officials with no options other than to call law enforcement when students with severe behavior disorders go through violent, sometimes uncontrollable, outbursts.
Parents countered that there are evidence-based techniques that can be used to manage the behavior of those children, and that with proper training teachers and other school officials would not need to resort to more drastic measures.
In the end, the Legislature agreed not to enact legislation, but instead directed the State Board of Education to adopt formal regulations governing emergency safety interventions.
On Wednesday following the public hearing, staff from the Department of Education will respond to the comments received. The board could then vote to adopt the regulations as written or send them back for further amendments.
In other business, the state board will:
• Hear a report from Commissioner Diane DeBacker on development of new teacher evaluation protocols; legislative bills on third-grade retention for reading proficiency; and proposals to bring the Jobs for America's Graduates programs to a limited number of Kansas schools.
• Act on recommendations to remove "Adequate Yearly Progress" benchmarks from the state's school accreditation standards and replace it with the new "Annual Measurable Objectives," consistent with the state's federal waiver from No Child Left Behind.
• Review the state's out-of-state licensure process.
• Receive an update on development of the Next Generation Science Standards.
• Review pending legislation and budget proposals dealing with education issues.
• Hear a presentation of the governor's School Efficiency Task Force recommendations.
• Receive an update on the state's new Career and Technical Education initiative.
• And discuss public feedback on proposed new history, government and social studies curriculum standards.