Teachers union backs restraint bill; foes say it would make Nebraska students ‘free game’

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Over the past eight years, similar legislation to LB 811 has come to the floor without any progress.

It would allow teachers and staff to use “reasonable intervention strategies,” including physical intervention.

Senators on the Education Committee were sure to ask questions on Tuesday to learn more from new voices coming to testify.

“We do have to figure out what we need to do to protect him, to protect the children in the class, to protect the teachers,” Sen. Joni Albrecht said. “We are missing a huge piece of our puzzle here.”

Supporters of the bill, including the Nebraska State Education Association, say it would help train staff to handle behaviors bringing disruptions to the classroom.

“The bill provides infrastructure and training that will help students across the state learn in safe learning environments without the threat of violence,” said Isau Metes, director of advocacy for NSEA. “It allocates lottery funds to provide behavior awareness and intervention awareness training. This training includes signs of trauma, verbal intervention and de-escalation techniques.”

Before the hearing, leaders from Voices for Children and I Be Black Girl spoke out against LB 811 at the Capitol.

Multiple groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, say this bill is the latest in several years’ worth of attempts to push restraint, physical intervention and removal from class into state laws.

And opponents argue that it’s too vague and would allow almost anything to be acceptable when using force.

“The language has not changed much, if at all, from previous years, despite the consistent and persistent language recommendations posed by us and others,” said Brad Meurrens, public policy director for Disability Rights Nebraska.

Some parents have firsthand accounts and say this bill would not fix the problem.

One example is Molly Jareske.

During her testimony, she recounted multiple times when her now 8-year-old boy with high-functioning autism was restrained.

In one instance, he was stepped on and yanked in either direction.

She says he has never been a violent child.

“With this bill, those teachers are allowed to do that,” Jareske said. “They’re allowed to do it. You can’t do it to an elderly person, you can’t do it to anyone else in the world, but here is our future. Go ahead, it’s free game. No, that is not how it should be.”

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