February 20, 2013

Maine teachers: Loosen restraint rule

The rule is too narrow and causes problems in classrooms, they say.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, speaks to the media about his bill to ease limits on what teachers can do to restrain students in the Capitol rotunda on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Teachers in the background wear matching red "Pride in Public Schools" t-shirts in support of Saviello's bill.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Lois Kilby-Chesley, president of Maine Education Association and a teacher on leave from the Freeport schools, also speaks in support of the bill at the pre-hearing rally.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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"We believe it is the most expeditious way of fixing problems with rule Chapter 33," said Deb Friedman, director of policy and programs. The changes "could go a long way toward giving educators the tools they need to maintain control in a classroom, without creating a high risk of injury to students or staff."

Maine Education Association President Lois Kilby-Chesly said the teachers union supports the bill and wants to "put some sensibility" back into restraint and seclusion rules.

Several parents and educators spoke against the proposed changes during the hearing, which lasted five hours.

Deb Davis, who served on the group of stakeholders that crafted the restraint-rule language, said teachers should work on preventing disruptive behavior in the first place -- a view echoed by several people who spoke against the bill.

Davis said her son was restrained several years ago, leading her to get deeply involved in restraint and seclusion issues.

"I'm a parent, and I don't want you to touch my kid," she said bluntly, when asked if she thought some changes could be made, such as allowing a teacher to pick up a young child.

Several other parents echoed her comments, saying any unwelcome touch could lead to physical injury or trauma for the child.

Barbara Gunn, a member of the stakeholders group who runs a day treatment center, said touching a child should be "a last resort."

She said teachers should wait out an out-of-control student and, if it happens repeatedly, consider removing the child from that class.

Organizations opposing the changes include the ACLU of Maine, the Disability Rights Network in Maine and the Crisis Prevention Institute in Wisconsin.

Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said the current rule protects teachers and students and shouldn't be changed.

"Rule 33 was crafted as part of a thoughtful yearlong process involving key stakeholders, educators and the Department of Education and it should not be gutted by legislators in a matter of days," Bellows said.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

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