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House Finance hears student restraint bill

Posted: March 26, 2014 - 12:01am

JUNEAU — The House Finance Committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill covering procedures and training for the restraint of public school students.

Republican Charisse Millett of Anchorage is sponsoring House Bill 210. The bill sets up guidelines for restraining and secluding public school students. It also outlines training for school staffs in dealing with restraining students.

The bill calls on schools to notify the parent or legal guardian within 24 hours of a student’s restraint or seclusion.

Jeanne Gerhardt Cyprus of Kiana told the committee of the trauma her daughter went through at school before a well-trained staff was put into place.

“My husband went to the school after getting a call finding the principal laying on top of my 7-year-old daughter,” Cyprus said. “This is not education. This is abuse, and this was happening regularly.”

She said that at one point her daughter was forcibly carried down the school’s hallway by her arms and legs by untrained staff and school aides. She said her daughter was restrained continuously from first to eighth grades.

“Now she’s on the honor roll with a staff that’s now trained,” Cyprus said.

Superintendent Eugene Avey of the Annette Island School District said the key to diffusing situations was a trained staff.

“We had two children literally ransack the classroom and the teacher did not know what to do,” Avey said.

He said the district finally sent a staff member out of state for training in how to handle disruptive situations. He said the training has calmed situations at the school, but noted there was not a site for such training in Alaska.

Students with special needs make up the majority of those the bill would affect.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, questioned the 24-hour notification portion of the bill.

“The phrase, ‘same day,’ should be put in here instead of 24 hours,” Wilson said, adding that parents should be notified before their child returned to school the next day.

Millett said a same-day notification requirement was not realistic to hold schools to in some cases. She said she was willing to consider an amendment saying same-day notification, but no less than 24 hours after the incident.

Millett said Alaska is one of 10 states where regulations on the issue are vague. She noted Alaska’s major school districts already have in place many procedures listed in the bill.

The bill would exempt religious and private schools since they are not under the authority of the state Department of Education and Early Development.

The bill remains in committee.

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