Sweeney Bills Protecting Students with Disabilities, Helping Car Services Who Drive Disabled Persons Approved by Senate

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TRENTON – On Monday, January 8th, the New Jersey Senate approved two bills sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney strengthening protections for students with disabilities and relieving the burden of costs of motor vehicle registrations for drivers of persons with disabilities.

The first bill, S-1163, co-sponsored by Senator Kristin Corrado, provides that physical restraint is only used in an emergency in which the student places themselves or others in immediate physical danger. The legislation also places especially stringent restrictions on the use of “prone restraint” (face down). Doing so can compress the diaphragm to the point where it could smother or severely injure a person.

“The use of certain restraint techniques could lead to tragedy if the proper precautions aren’t taken,” Senator Sweeney said. “We need to work with schools, doctors and parents to make sure these students are being treated properly.”

The legislation prohibits the use of the prone restraint technique unless it is authorized by the student’s primary care doctor. Further, the bill requires that if physical restraint has been used on a student, the parent or guardians must be notified immediately. A full written report of the incident must also be provided to them within 48 hours of the incident occurring. Any staff involved in the physical restraint of students would be required to receive yearly training.

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“There is currently no state policy that regulates the use of restraint and seclusion for students with disabilities in public or private schools. This bill provides the guidance needed to ensure that schools that are using restraint and seclusion are doing so in manner that is safe, warranted, transparent, and accountable,” said Dr. Suzanne Buchanan, Autism New Jersey Executive Director. “Along with Senator Corrado, Senate President Sweeney has once again championed the rights and safety of individuals with developmental disabilities.”

In addition to addressing the use of physical restraint, the bill requires that seclusion of a student with disabilities is only permitted in the case that a student’s physician provides prior written consent, or in an emergency situation. The bill provides that whenever physical restraint or seclusion techniques are used, each incident must be visually monitored, documented, and attempts must be made to minimize the use of these measures.

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The Department of Education would also be required to establish guidelines for school districts, educational services commissions, and approved private schools for students with disabilities to ensure a review process is in place to review the use of physical restraints and seclusion techniques in emergency situations.

Another bill, S-3555, also approved by the Senate, exempts motor vehicles that provide service to persons with developmental disabilities from motor vehicle registration fees.

"For many organizations that provide transportation services for those with developmental disabilities the motor vehicles fees can be a financial burden,” said Senator Sweeney. “The services they provide are important. They deserve the financial relief this legislation will give them.”

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