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Bill Addressing Use Of Restraint And Seclusion In Schools Passes Arkansas House Committee

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Arkansas House
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An Arkansas House committee has advanced a bill that would put into the state’s code guidelines on the restraint of children in schools. 

The Arkansas House Education Committee passed House Bill 1610 by a voice vote, with one audible dissenting vote. The bill seeks to reduce the use of physical restraint and seclusion against students, saying that "every effort should be made to…avoid the use of physical restraint on a student to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of other students and school personnel."

In presenting the bill to the committee, Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould, spoke on existing guidelines concerning restraint. 

"The Department of Ed[ducation] has guidance policy in effect right now on the use of restraint and seclusion. And so what this bill does is it just codifies that guidance policy," Gazaway said. 

Gazaway said the issue with restraint and seclusion primarily concerns disabled students. Rep. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale. called the bill "very important" but said something that she found missing in the legislation is mention of the role racial bias plays in disciplining students. 

"I think you’re exactly right that students with disabilities are disproportionally targeted disciplinarily, but also students of color are as well. So I’m just wondering if you considered the role of racial bias and thought about including that as a pertinent element in this conversation," Godfrey said.

Rep. Gayla McKenzie, R-Gravette, who voted against the legislation, said she had questions on some of the broad language of the bill as well as other concerns. 

The bill now goes to the full House for a vote.  

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