Last night, Governor DeSantis signed legislation sponsored by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) prohibiting seclusion and providing stricter guidelines for the use of physical restraint for students with disabilities in Florida schools.
“This law ends the dangerous practice of seclusion and unsafe restraint in Florida special education classrooms,” says Senator Book. “Students deserve to be safe at school, and parents deserve peace of mind. While the majority of our special education school professionals provide caring and safe learning environments for students with disabilities, we have unfortunately seen serious abuses committed as well.”
The bill, now law, also allows for a pilot video monitoring program for self-contained classrooms in Broward County, provides for additional training for staff, and more. Sadly, high-profile stories of alleged abuse in Florida’s special education classrooms have made headlines in the past several years.
“It is our responsibility to protect all children, especially those that cannot speak for or stand up for and protect themselves,” says parent Jason Segelbaum. “Our son, Max, is non-verbal and like many other special needs children has limited communication abilities, he has no way of letting the adults know when he is being hurt, mistreated or abused. The only way for us to protect our most vulnerable children is to place cameras in their classrooms to be the eyes and ears for them.”
There have been more than 78,000 incidents of restraint and nearly 21,000 incidents of seclusion reported in Florida between 2010 (when the reporting system was developed) and 2020. These types of incidents can lead to students suffering bleeding or bone fractures, in addition to the psychological trauma of the experience.
This year marked Senator Book’s fourth time filing similar legislation designed to keep our most vulnerable children safe in school.