A bipartisan effort to regulate when students can be restrained or isolated in Missouri schools is off to a quick start in the 2020 legislative session.
Representatives Dottie Bailey (R-Eureka) and Ian Mackey (D-St. Louis) have filed identical bills that would ban the use of seclusion or restraint except when students, teachers, or staff face safety concerns. House Bills 1568 (Bailey) and 1569 (Mackey) would also require that when such measures are used, all parties involved except students write a report on the incident, and require that parents or guardians be notified that the measures were applied to their student.
Mackey first filed the legislation last year, after media reports brought to light the use of those measures in Missouri. He said in the last year he has seen “tiny, empty closets built and designed solely for the purpose of isolating small children,” in Missouri schools.
House Bill 1568 will be heard Tuesday morning by the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education. This afternoon, Mackey and Bailey spoke to the media joined by parents who say their children have been restrained or secluded in an unacceptable manner.
They also displayed pictures of the some of the isolation rooms they have seen in Missouri schools, including one in the school that Shawan Daniels said her son was put in, in a Columbia school.
The legislation would require districts to enact policies limiting the use of restraints and isolation, but does not propose penalties for violating those limitations. Both representatives say they are open to adding language to create penalties.
He said Illinois has had the same language he filed last year in its laws for 20 years but it was not being followed.
The lawmakers are enthused that this legislation is moving quickly in the first days of the legislative session that began last week. They said it shows House leadership considers this an important issue.
More Missouri children and teenagers with specific developmental or physical disabilities will have insurance coverage for therapeutic care under a House proposal that became law this year.
The language, included in Senate Bill 514, expands Missouri law that mandates coverage for therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder. It includes physical, speech, and occupational therapies. It will apply to plans renewed or enacted beginning January 1.
Basye said when he met Robyn Schelp, President of Missouri Disability Empowerment, and her 11 year-old son Nathan, who has a genetic disorder, he heard their plight and thinking about his brother-in-law put it into context.
Schelp said it is difficult for her to think about how different Nathan’s life might have been if this law had been in place when he was growing up. He was limited to one session of each type of therapy a week, early in his life.
Schelp went from being so, as she put it, “out of the loop” in state politics she had to look up who her state representative was. She encourages others to be willing to lobby for the changes they want or need in government.
All 50 states have an autism mandate. This legislation made Missouri the third state to expand that to cover all developmental and physical disabilities.
Basye’s legislation passed out of the House with broad support, 138-4. That bill, House Bill 399, was eventually vetoed by Governor Mike Parson (R) because of an issue with another measure that was amended to it, but the language became law as part of SB 514, which was signed into law July 11.
Schelp’s organization has other issues that it’s working on and Basye said he would be working with her on a least one of them.
The House has voted to require insurance companies to cover therapies for developmentally disabled children in Missouri, which would expand on a 2010 law that required coverage for therapy for children with autism.
House Bill 399 would prohibit companies from limiting coverage in fully insured plans for physical, cognitive, emotional, mental, or developmental disabilities. That is less than one-third of the existing plans in the state, covering somewhere between 1,800 and 6,000 children.
The legislation is sponsored by Rocheport representative Chuck Basye (R). He said for children to be able to continue treatments when they are young could help them avoid long-term needs and issues later in life.
One of the driving forces behinds Basye’s interest in the issue is his relationship with a constituent, 9-year-old Nathan, whose mother Basye met during his campaign for reelection. Nathan is one of the children who could benefit from the passage of HB 399, if only indirectly.