Bill further limiting use of physical restraints on students lands on Gov. DeSantis’ desk

School districts reported 2,579 incidents of restraint on 1,853 students last school year.

A proposal strengthening restrictions on school personnel using a “mechanical restraint” on students with disabilities is now under the consideration of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The bill (HB 235) outright bans staff from using a “mechanical restraint” on students, unless they are school resource officers, school safety officers, school guardians or security officers.

The bill is an update of legislation passed last year, which allowed restraints on students so long as it didn’t restrict airflow, blood flow or put students in a facedown position.

This year’s legislation takes that language out and limits restraint use to “authorized personnel” and only for students in grades 6 through 12.

“Physical restraint may be used only when there is an imminent risk of serious injury and must be discontinued as soon as the threat posed by the dangerous behavior has dissipated,” the bill says.

Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, a former Orlando teacher, sponsored the legislation. 

Plasencia told Florida Politics his home district is one of those still using the physical restraint devices.

“It took us 12 years to pass the last bill and last summer we found out there was a carve-out for mechanical restraints,” Plasencia said. “There aren’t a lot of school districts that utilize this anymore, and there’s really no need for it.”

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book sponsored an identical bill (SB 390).

“At the end of the day, it’s about keeping students safe and giving families peace of mind,” Book said.

The bill received support from the Florida PTA and Disability Rights Florida.

Caitlyn Clibbon, public policy analyst for Disability Rights Florida, said the use of physical restraints is still happening in nine Florida school districts.

“That means 59 districts have figured out how to safely educate students,” she contended. 

According to an analysis of the legislation, during the fall of the 2021-22 school year, school districts reported 2,579 incidents of restraint on 1,853 students. About 3-5% of the incidents involved mechanical restraints.

If passed, the legislation would take effect July 1.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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