By L. Rene’ Hardwick, Ph.D., Advocacy Coordinator

Mississippi is no longer one of a handful of states lacking a policy regulating the use of restraint and seclusion in schools and learning environments.

This spring, the ACLU of Mississippi was successful in reigniting stalled efforts to push for guidelines on the minimum standards for restraint and seclusion in public schools. As a result, the Mississippi Department of Education established policy 4013 as Rule 38.13 Restraint and Seclusion. This is in large part due to our advocacy and collaborative efforts with a number of organizations across the state, including Concerned Citizens Group and others. 

The updated policy regulate when and how public school employees can use force to handle student behavioral issues. It emphasizes prevention as the foundational framework by incorporating the data-driven Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports approach. In addition, it clarifies training requirements for employees, establishes statewide data collection and public reporting mechanisms, but still allows for the use of seclusion.

While it is not the ideal policy in regards to ensuring the safety, respect, and dignity of all children and school personnel, it is a step in the right direction. The progress that has been made is a direct result of the effective leadership of state Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright and likeminded individuals working together for a common goal and purpose.

Moving forward, we maintain our defense position. The ACLU of Mississippi will continue to be watchful in ensuring the effective implementation of Rule 38.13. As we look ahead to the 2017 legislative session, we will work towards establishing mandates to ensure further regulations and protections against the disproportionate use of restraint and the prohibition of seclusion to keep all children safe. 

It has always been the goal of the ACLU of MS to ensure the safety and the rights of all students and school personnel when seeking to manage even the most challenging and disturbing behaviors in schools and learning environments.  This is our task and in Mississippi, today, we are a step closer to reducing and restricting the use of restraint and seclusion, a step higher towards positioning all of our children to rise!

See the MDE Restraint and Seclusion Policy here.

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