Lawmakers To Look At How Teachers Can Restrain Disruptive Students 

Maine educators are looking for more clarity in the state’s law relating to restraining children in schools. The Maine Education Association says the state’s current rule allows the use of restraint only to prevent an imminent risk of injury or harm to a student or others. But the ambiguity in the law is causing problems in schools when it comes to dealing with disruptive students. “There’s been significant behavior issues that have resulted in children controlling classrooms for an extended amount of time. Fire alarms have been pulled, classrooms disrupted, there’s been scratches and bruises on staff and loss of instruction time for all students has occurred,” said Jill Watson, a special education teacher. A hearing was held Wednesday on the proposal that would change the rule to allow the use of restraint or seclusion to prevent significant property damage, disruption of the educational environment or when authorized in writing by a student’s parent. Some teachers say there is some confusion about what exactly “imminent danger” means in the current law. Many of those teachers contacted Wilton Republican, Senator Tom Saviello, who sponsored the resolve. “The word they use is ‘could’ result, ‘could’ do this, ‘could’ do that. Define could,” Saviello said at a State House rally. “So that means in one case where a child is being very physical with a teacher could be a problem and in another case could not be a problem. It’s very gray. So if I were trying to decide what to do I might air on the conservative side and not do anything.”The Maine Education Association supports a resolve that would prompt lawmakers to take another look at Chapter 33. Maine educators say the law has made life tough on them and their students. Currently, when teachers are confronted by a disruptive student, they can no longer remove that child from the classroom…they have to remove the other students instead. “Interrupting your own learning as a disruptive child is one thing. But having the ability to disrupt the learning of other children really shouldn’t be allowed,” said Cyndy Fish, a special education teacher.Not everyone supports the measure. The ACLU of Maine says Chapter 33 protects kids, especially those with disabilities, from what they call abusive practices. “We’re concerned there’s a significant amount of misunderstanding around rule 33,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director, ACLU of Maine. “But we don’t think the rule is the problem. The safety of teachers and students is of paramount importance. We should not go back to the bad old days of when teachers and administrators could use restraint and seclusion without limits.”The fate of Chapter 33 now lies in the hands of the lawmakers.