Rep. Walsh introduces bill to reduce classroom disruptions

State Rep. Jim Walsh has introduced legislation that would permit teachers to use isolation and restraint as disciplinary actions for disruptive students.

Under current guidelines, teachers use “room clears” to separate disruptive students. When a student is causing problems, teachers clear all the other students from the classroom, leaving only the disruptive student and the teacher to deal with the problem.

HB 2930 defines isolation as “restricting the student alone within a room or any other form or enclosure” and restraint as “physical intervention or force used to control a student, including the use of a restraint device.” Restraint devices include but are not limited to “metal handcuffs, plastic ties, ankle restraints, leather cuffs, other hospital type restraints, pepper spray, tasers, or batons.”

“Surrendering the classroom to a single disruptive or violent student is not the best answer to a bad situation,” said Walsh.

“I cannot emphasize enough: this proposed policy change was brought to me from teachers. From professionals, working in the classroom. Allowing carefully monitored restraint or seclusion gives them better options for dealing effectively with disruptive events—without disturbing an entire class’s learning,” he said.

“We are definitely working as a district, but also as a state and a nation, on how to support students with discipline,” said Aberdeen Superintendent Alicia Henderson.

“I am aware that room clears can be very disruptive, and so I’m not surprised that there’s been a bill introduced. Classroom discipline is one of our current challenges,” she added.

“I’m concerned with any legislation that increases the use of restraint and isolation with students in Washington schools,” said Lee Collyer, OSPI Program Supervisor.

“Restraint and isolation is actually a prohibited practice unless the student poses a threat of serious harm to himself or others. What this law would do is allow restraint and isolation for students without individualized education programs,” he said.

The proposal provides an exemption for students under an individualized education program, according to Walsh.

“Only general-population students, not otherwise disabled, physically endangering other students, causing a severe disruption or destroying property, would be affected,” Walsh said.