Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Debate Over Student Restraint Returns To Utah Legislature

Lee Hale
A bill that addresses physical restraint in the classroom was debated on the House floor Tuesday morning.

Complaints of unnecessary physical force used against Utah students have prompted a bill to clarify what should and shouldn’t happen in a classroom. Lee Hale reports.

House Bill 92 states that teachers can physically restrain a student who is causing harm to themselves or someone else in the classroom.


But, when the student is only causing damage to classroom property, the bill requires that teachers physically guide the student rather than restrain them. Basically, using just enough touch to escort them out of the classroom.


The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Representative Carol Spackman Moss was a teacher herself and has experience with aggressive student outbursts in class.


“No teacher really wants to restrain a kid," says Moss.


Moss says the idea of the bill is to avoid restraint when a student can be talked down. Or if the damage is relatively minimal, like throwing a binder.


Now if a student is really wreaking havoc, Moss says, “I think doing the reasonable thing to stop further damage or calm the student down is not at all unwarranted.”


The bill was read on the House floor Tuesday morning and those who opposed worried this was further complicating an already complicated situation.


“I think we’re going down a path where we’re limiting options for response and we’re also increasing our liability as a state," said Republican Representative Justin Fawson.


Another Republican Representative, Eric Hutchings, spoke in favor of the bill. He says currently there is way too much gray area for teachers.


“If the kid picks up a desk and decides to just trash the entire classroom can I stop him?" asked Hutchings. "Or do I have to wait till he’s done?”


Hutchings argued that this bill will help put things in perspective. What is appropriate and when. Especially for special education teachers, who will likely be impacted the most by this guidance.


The bill is currently undergoing revisions and will return to the House floor in the next few days.

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.