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Virginia Board of Education Prohibits Face-Down Restraint In Public Schools

Virginia's Board of Education has voted to prohibit the use of facedown student restraints in public schools.

Virginia’s Board of Education voted last week to approve final regulations limiting the use of seclusion and restraint of students in public schools. The included language prohibiting prone restraint entirely.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation directing the state board of education to identify and prohibit seclusion and restraint that posed a significant danger to students. They didn’t, however, determine what types or techniques would constitute a significant danger, but instead left it up to the board to make that determination.

“I just ask the question…with the legislation in place, can a school division actually do a prone restraint anyway?” asked Dan Gecker, president of Virginia’s Board of Education.

The board deliberated for over an hour over whether or not to prohibit prone restraint entirely. That’s when a student is held facedown on the ground.

“A significant danger, in my opinion, is more than being able to breathe,” said board member Francisco Duran.

Sam Hollins, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services for the Virginia Department of Education suggested a ban on prone restraint could increase injuries to students, pointing to what she called “safeholds” used in districts utilizing prone restraint.

“Although a great many local school division programs would be unaffected by a ban on prone restraints, the same could not be said for programs that operate within the public school system,” Hollins said.

Board member Keisha Pexton said she wanted to make sure the language wasn’t overly restrictive, but still safe.

“I have an appreciation for wanting to equip teachers as best as possible because, in that instance, my child could have been hurt,” Pexton said. “I have an interest in ensuring teachers have all the tools they have to protect our children and my child and to protect themselves.”

Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to prohibit use of prone restraint or other restraints that limit a student’s breathing. In a press release, the Legal Aid Justice Center applauded the vote.

“Too many children have been subjected to fear and trauma caused by prone restraints; some have been injured or killed,” said Rachael Deane, Legal Director of the Legal Aid Justice Center’s JustChildren Program. “We are pleased the Board has recognized the dangerousness of these restraints and urge the Governor to sign the regulations so that our schools will be on notice that these restraints are dangerous, unnecessary, and unlawful.”

The regulations aren’t set to take effect anytime soon. They still have to go to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam for approval, and then through at least one more round of public comments.