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Lawmakers Urge Better Reporting On Treatment Of ESE Students

Mark Foley/myfloridahouse.gov

With just a few days left of the legislative session, we're working to get as many answers as possible to questions posed during our last WLRN-Miami Herald Town Hall meeting in February.

This question comes from Steve Moyer of Cooper City:

"I have a disabled child that attends public school and feel the education provided to most ESE (Exceptional Student Education) students in Broward County as well as other districts is inadequate.

I have also been advocating for restrictions on the use of restraint and seclusion of ESE students. Given the data, I am appalled that the Legislature refuses to act.

For instance, the most available data shows that in both the counties of Orange and Hillsborough, the number of restraint incidents is larger than the counties of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach combined.

The companion bill to HB291 by Representative (Katie) Edwards is currently in Senate draft form and sponsored by Senator (Anitere) Flores. It is similar to her bill from last session relating to restraint and seclusion.

Will both Senators co-sponsor and support the passage of this bill?"

The short answer is yes. Both lawmakers sponsored bills in the House and Senate. The rest of the answer comes from Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Sunrise.

"I was proud to work with Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) this year on a bill that would have eliminated seclusion rooms and placed guidelines on how our public school teachers implement restraint.

I heard from many families who shared their stories and this was a priority for them. Even though the bill did not receive a committee hearing this year, we've worked with many stakeholders and I plan on filing the bill again next year with that input.

One of the issues we found in talking (about seclusion and restraint) with county school boards, superintendents and staff was that there is reporting, but it's disproportionate because there are different methods of reporting.

So, for example, one incident may be recorded as one seclusion and/or restraint. There may be multiple seclusions or restraints within one episode of trying to either calm a student down or address a situation happening in the classroom. That's what we found in talking with folks from Orange County and Miami-Dade.

So, perhaps next year we need to clarify how incidents are to be reported so we can address why those disparities are showing up in the numbers."