FRANKFORT — The state Board of Education approved some changes Monday to a new statewide policy regarding when and how students may be restrained in public schools.
Board members unanimously backed the amended proposal in Frankfort during a regular meeting that will continue Tuesday.
About 75 people attended a public hearing in September to discuss the proposal, said Kevin Brown, general counsel for the Office of Guiding Support Services. Department of Education staff used their comments as well as written correspondence to make the changes, or, in many cases, to keep the proposal intact.
"We hope we have reached a good compromise for Kentucky, and hopefully this regulation does that," Brown told board members.
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The proposal prohibits physical restraint of students except when a child's behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm. It also requires school staff receive training to help them identify situations considered serious enough for restraint and learn positive reinforcement methods.
In responding to concerns that the regulation would hinder the staff's ability to break up student fights, Brown emphasized that "most times a student fight is going to have that serious, imminent threat there."
"This regulation was not designed to have staff necessarily do anything during a student fight," he said. Rather it is "to make sure kids are not being inappropriately restrained and secluded."
The amended proposal adds examples of behavior methods used in classrooms that are not considered physical restraint, such as verbal commands and redirecting students to promote safety. It also adds a restriction on the restraint of students who use their hands to communicate, such as those who use sign language.
The department ignored suggestions to address property damage, saying the proposal is focused on student and staff safety.
"The fact that teachers are unsure of what to do in cases where a student is dismantling a classroom and endangering other students and school personnel in the classroom illustrates the extent to which school personnel need quality training in the area of positive behavior supports and interventions," the department wrote.