Senate Committee Advances Bill That Would Ban Dangerous Restraint Technique against Special Needs Students

2018 Memorial for Max Benson

Special to the Vanguard

Sacramento, CA – Over six years after a 13-year-old Davis resident died at the hand of his teachers at a private special needs school, legislation that would ban the restraint technique is advancing.

On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee unanimously advanced legislation by Senator Cortese today that will prohibit schools from using a dangerous form of physical restraint against students.

SB 483 would prohibit the use of “prone restraints” in K-12 schools, which physically or mechanically restrain students in a facedown position.

Prone restraint, one of the most dangerous forms of restraint still used in schools, is often used on students with special needs and children of color. The bill advances to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Now is the time to eliminate prone restraint from our classrooms forever,” said Senator Cortese (D-San Jose), a member of the Senate Education Committee. “The trauma caused by prone restraint can last a lifetime. We can end this archaic practice now.”

“In 2017, my 13-year-old son Max died after a teacher put him in a prone restraint,” said Stacia Langley, a Davis resident. “This bill is long overdue and will save the lives of vulnerable children in our state.”

Despite the U.S. Department of Education recommending its elimination, prone restraint is unfortunately still in practice. In fact, in the 2022-2023 school year, California schools used physical restraints on students 6,785 times, according to data from the California Department of Education.

Though they made up just 14 percent of the student population, students with disabilities endured 95.5 percent of the physical restraints. Moreover, prone restraints are applied at a higher rate against Black students, according to findings by The Sacramento Bee.

In 2018, a 13-year-old student with autism died at an El Dorado Hills school after being held in a prone restraint for over an hour.

“It’s hard to believe that holding children face down on the ground is still legal in California schools. It is dangerous, ineffective, and unnecessary,” said Ben Jones, J.D., Director of Legal and Policy Initiatives, Lives in the Balance. “We applaud Senator Cortese’s effort to ban the brutal practice of prone restraint. Students and educators deserve safe, effective approaches to meeting students’ needs: evidence-based alternatives focused on problem-solving, not physical management.”

Over thirty states have already prohibited prone restraint in schools following guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education. California law currently permits prone restraint by “trained personnel.” SB 483 advances student safety by banning all uses of prone restraint.

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