Friday, June 06, 2008

When May an Educator in Texas Physically Restrain a Student?

No, I’m not thinking of putting a Half Nelson (get it? Half Empty . . . Half Nelson?) on one of my students. That, anyway, is in the past as today I watched my former students walk across the stage this morning, watched them pass into personhood.

No it came up earlier this week as the news in the Chron and FortBendNow has been covering an event at a high school a few miles away. It seems the students at that high school, named after George Bush-41, decided it might be fun to throw food at each other in the school’s commons during lunch.

One student threw a plastic PowerAde bottle, with PowerAde still in it, at another student, striking that student in the back. The PowerAde chucker then made to leave the scene quickly but was then tackled from behind by an administrator who then physically restrained that student so that he could neither attack another student nor escape the justice that was due to him.

The student later alleged that the administrator administered a “choke hold” and complained of cuts, bruises and a broken vessel in his eye.

I could find no report of what had happened to the other student who was assaulted with a bottle of PowerAde. I assume from that, that he’s OK.

But what makes this news is that the administrator was arrested and charged with assaulting a student. He was released upon posting a $15,000 bond.

The administrator was charged with using “excessive force” to restrain this student, a charge that the administrator is now denying.

This is an issue that comes up infrequently but when it does, there is clearly some misinformation out there. I have been told by students that if a teacher uses physical force to restrain a student, the teacher will be fired. I told them that wasn’t exactly the case, but now, with this incident in the news, I fear that students will become emboldened in committing crimes, thinking (and now maybe knowing) that those in charge of maintaining discipline and order are powerless to do anything about it.

So I went to the Texas Education Code.

It’s all covered under §37.0021 and has a twin in the Texas Administrative Code §89.1053.

§ 37.0021. USE OF CONFINEMENT, RESTRAINT, SECLUSION, AND TIME-OUT. (a) It is the policy of this state to treat with dignity and respect all students, including students with disabilities who receive special education services under Subchapter A, Chapter 29. A student with a disability who receives special education services under Subchapter A, Chapter 29, may not be confined in a locked box, locked closet, or other specially designed locked space as either a discipline management practice or a behavior management technique.

(b) In this section:

(1) "Restraint" means the use of physical force or a mechanical device to
significantly restrict the free movement of all or a portion of a student's

So there is no question that an educator may physically restrain a student. How much restraint is used is an issue in this incident though. Here are the relevant passages a little further down:

“be consistent with:

(A) professionally accepted practices and standards of student discipline and techniques for behavior management; and

(B) relevant health and safety standards”

Clear as mud? The thing is, the state has set guidelines that are in place, and these guidelines are taught in training sessions. Yes, Texas will train teachers how to legally restrain their students.

Do I know what these guidelines are? No.

Did the administrator in this incident know? Haven’t the foggiest.

Why don’t I, as a teacher, know the limits placed on Texas educators by state law and locally developed procedures? No one has told me. I have never participated in a training session in this.

This, by the way, is perfectly all right. In fact it is only required that a teacher receive this training if they are involved in a physical altercation with a student. Then the teacher must receive this training within 30 days of the incident.

I know, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but imagine what the community reaction would be if word got out that all teachers in the district were to receive training on the physical restraint of their kids. I’m a parent and I know what I would think if I were told this.

So again, Texas educators are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The same place where teachers find out, after the fact, which one of their acts led to their dismissals.

Geez, why would anyone want to teach in Texas public schools?


Anonymous said...


you said "In fact it is only required that a teacher receive this training if they are involved in a physical altercation with a student. Then the teacher must receive this training within 30 days of the incident"

where did you get these comments?

Have you been lucky enough to find further guidance? What is your opinion of a teacher stopping and physically restraining a student from another campus walking in front of that teachers respective school? It happened near by recently and the common thread by law enfrocement is "we don't cover that!" District police don't investigate teacher conduct...local city police don't investigate incidents on campus property.

Funny, if a student was shot or somehting, every cop in every department from near to OK would be in the background of the reporters know, hands folded across burly chest with that "I'm here to catch the bad guy" look!

So, you started the thread...what do you think?

Hal said...

My first lesson in this is never to look to administration for guidance. Information is power and they want all of both. I got my information by reading the laws in the TEC and the TAC.

No, I've never been involved in the physical restraint of a student but have used my presence as a block to that - that way they commit the assault if it comes.

Restraining a student who is not enrolled at your campus? Tough one, because you cannot be the determinor that they aren't there at someone's invitation and the front office knows they are there.