State lawmakers approved a new bill Wednesday that limits the controversial practice of using seclusion rooms and restraining children in schools.
The law now increases monitoring and reporting the practice and also mandates that parents be notified within 24 hours if their child has been placed in seclusion. It strictly limits the use of restraint on a child and requires seclusion rooms to have windows.
"A lot of times, kids were being secluded for reasons that didn't have anything to do with an emergency," said child advocate Sarah Eagan. "A child might be secluded because he didn't put his toy away."
Under current law, children were locked in seclusion rooms for indefinite periods of time. Now, there are strict time limits, which vary based on the child's age.
"There are hundreds of children who have been kept in a room for over an hour," said State Rep. Andy Fleishman, a Democrat from West Hartford, "dozens of children who have been restrained or secluded more than 50 times in school year."
Official from the Office of the Child Advocate said many parents have criticized the practice. They also found that children as young as pre-school age were being placed in seclusion and were suffering from various levels of autism and were disproportionately African American or Hispanic.
Over the last three years, "more than 1,300 incidents occurred where Connecticut Children were injured during restraint or seclusion," according to Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff.
In addition to stricter limits on use, school staff will be required to undergo new training about seclusion and restraint. The law takes effect starting this coming July 1, and is multi-tiered with some parts that will be implemented as late as 2019.