Missouri state Reps. Ian Mackey, a St. Louis Democrat, and Dottie Bailey, a Republican from Eureka, have introduced bills that would curtail, regulate and define for the first time the currently out-of-control use of these practices in our state. The legislation has a real chance of passing this year, and it’s so important for our children that it does.
“These isolation rooms are brand new” in Missouri, Mackey said in an interview, and are typically justified by the argument that “all these kids are so violent that we need them,” when that’s not the case. “There have always been fights in schools, and never have we thrown kids in closets” being marketed to schools by outfits like Catapult.
Yet the misuse of restraints and isolation has been reported in every part of the state, Mackey said. Thirty states already have laws limiting restraints and seclusion, and 19 prohibit it altogether. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently signed an emergency order banning the use of these practices after the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica revealed widespread abuses there.
Lawmakers say so much and do so little to put kids first. Passing Bailey and Mackey’s bills into law would be a great way to show it’s not all talk.
State Reps. Dottie Bailey, R-Eureka, Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, and Education Committee Chairman Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, held a Statehouse press conference on Monday, to outline their bipartisan efforts.
Representative Mackey, a former teacher, tells Capitol reporters that numerous school districts don’t follow their own policies on this issue.
“What I have seen over the last year has been nothing short of appalling,” Mackey says. “Tiny, empty closets built and designed solely for the purpose of isolating small children.”
Mackey and Bailey have filed identical bills, which would limit restraints and seclusion to instances of immediate physical and safety threats. Their legislation would also require school districts to report all occurrences of restraint and seclusion to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
For the second year, legislation aiming to limit the use of seclusion rooms and restraint in Missouri schools has been filed.
But this year, with Republican support in the GOP-dominated Legislature and more media attention, the chances of it passing appear more promising, backers say.
State Rep. Ian Mackey, D-Richmond Heights, filed the proposal last year. It passed it out of committee but did not make it to the House floor for a vote. This year, Mackey said lawmakers are much more aware of the issue.
“Isolating kids, and in many cases telling no one, including the parents,” is happening every day in Missouri schools, Mackey said at a press conference promoting the legislation on Monday.
The legislation defines “seclusion” as the “involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving.” It also defines “restraint” as the use of “physical force, with or without the use of any physical device or material, to restrict the free movement of all or a portion of a student's body.”
With these definitions, the state will be able to better regulate how and when public schools can use seclusion rooms or restrain students.
“Nearly all of Missouri school districts have a policy in place that’s been adopted by their local board,” Mackey said. “In numerous instances, however, there’ve been violations of these policies.”
Representative Ian Mackey, a Democrat from St. Louis County, was vehemently opposed to the bill, and said in a passionate address to his colleagues: “Women brought all of us into this world, and I sure hope they vote all of us out.”
Later, in a telephone interview, he said that Friday’s vote was the “day when it finally hit home that, ‘Oh my God, my state is also participating in the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade,’” the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that established federal protections for abortion.
But St. Louis Democratic Rep. Ian Mackey said restricting faculty speech contradicts the point of the bill.
"What's wrong with being offended in the context of a college classroom?" Mackey said during a House floor debate. "What's wrong with that? That's particularly the place where one should be offended. I learn by being offended half the time."
State. Rep. Ian Mackey, a Democrat who lives in St. Louis County, filed House Bill 583 to require parents to enroll children by age 5. Currently, the rule is age 7.
"You cannot start school at 7 years old. You can't make that time up," said Mackey, who was recently sworn in to serve his first term. "If you are behind, you are not going to catch up."
Mackey, an attorney who previously worked as an early childhood educator, said this change is long overdue.
He believes the earlier start will increase student achievement and help more students access post-secondary college and career options.
"Evidence and experience demonstrate that a child’s early years are formative for their long-term development,” said Mackey, in a Jan. 17 news release. “Lowering our state’s mandatory school age is the right thing to do — and should serve as a critical piece of Gov. Mike Parson’s workforce development agenda.”
Mackey, who taught in Head Start classrooms in Springfield, said the Missouri General Assembly expanded funding and access to early childhood education in recent years, and this change supports that effort.