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Bill concerning restraint and isolation in Washington schools fails to move forward

The bill moved through the House and got stuck in the Senate.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill focusing on restraint and isolation of students in Washington schools failed to move forward on Wednesday. 

Supporters said the legislation proposed the elimination of isolation and a reduction in restraint. The bill moved through the House and got stuck in the Senate.

Andrea Kadlec is a staff attorney at Disability Rights Washington and says DRW and the ACLU collaborated on a report called “An Examination of Restraint and Isolation Practices in Washington schools.”

The report tallied how many times restraint and isolation occurred.

"Almost 25,000 incidents against approximately 3,000 students in a year,” said Kadlec referring to data collected from the 2019-20 school year. “We found that restraint and isolation are used disproportionately against students who are in kindergarten through grade 5, students who are black and multiracial, students who are unhoused.”

Just last month, there was an incident on Bainbridge Island where a student experiencing an episode of anxiety was restrained and put in a police vehicle. The school district says what happened is now being reviewed by an independent investigator.

"What we would like to do is eliminate isolation and isolation usually happens right after restraint, and that is where injury most often occurs. Injury occurs for students, but it occurs for staff too,” said Kadlec.

The report recommendations led to HB1479. Representative Lisa Callan says it is about figuring out how to bring the right resources and training to school districts across the state, but that raised questions.

"The immediate response is, 'Well then we need to train everybody in de-escalation and that is going to cost $40 million,' but if you are doing the upfront support you don't have to train everybody in de-escalation,” said Kadlec.

Ultimately, the legislation did not receive enough votes.

"We are not going to give up. We are going to keep working on this in the interim, and try to come back next year with another bill to try to do it all over again,” said Kadlec.

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