Florida Legislature Bans Teachers, Other School Staff From Using Zip-ties and Handcuffs On Students

(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via Florida Phoenix)

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Right now, teachers and other staff can use handcuffs, zip-ties, straightjackets or other devices on students who act out or misbehave in a way that poses a threat to themselves or others.

But that traumatic practice may soon come to an end.

Florida’s House and Senate approved legislation to prohibit those methods, which have often targeted children with disabilities. The next stop is for Gov. Ron DeSantis to approve the bill.

HB 235 provides that only school resource officers, school safety officers, school guardians, or school security guards can use these mechanical restraints on students in grades 6 through 12 — but not children in younger grades.

The bill also deals with physical restraints. In that category, school personnel can use physical restraints — meaning restricting students’ movements — but only when other behavior interventions have been exhausted.

“At the end of the day, this bill is about keeping students safe and giving parents a piece of mind,” Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat who represents part of Broward County, said earlier this month. Book, who is the Senate minority leader, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

The legislation builds off previous efforts to limit how teachers and other school personnel handle students who might be acting out in a dangerous manner. For example, the prior legislation added language into Florida law that limited the use of restraints on students and completely prohibited the use of seclusion on students.

The House sponsor of the new bill, Rep. Rene Plasencia, a Republican who resigned this week, said in early March that HB 235 is the “final piece” to the earlier efforts. Plasencia represented parts of Brevard and Orange counties.

According to Florida Department of Education data, the use of mechanical restraints for disciplinary purposes on a student was used 43 times throughout the 2020-21 school year. That includes 25 instances involving males, and 18 involving females. As to race, the data show 19 instances related to Black students, 10 white, 10 Hispanic, 1 Native American and 3 listed as two or more races.

According to that same Department of Education data, the use of physical restraints occurred 1,867 times in the 2020-21 school year.

Of those instances, 1,533 were males and 334, females. As to race, 597 instances related to Black students, 801 for white students, Hispanic, 336; and other groups adding up to 133.

Overall, Florida’s enrollment in the public school system is 36 percent white; 21 percent, Black and 35 percent Hispanic, plus other groups.

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: info@floridaphoenix.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

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