By Allison Kite, March 24, 2016
Legislators have combined bills requiring suicide prevention training for teachers and allowing parents to appeal local districts’ decisions in their complaints about use of seclusion and restraint in schools.
With the regular legislative session winding down, negotiators from House and Senate education committees are ironing out details of the two measures to prepare them for final votes.
The conference committee members negotiated a bill that more closely follows a task force’s recommendations on the seclusion and restraint measure. They also agreed Thursday to remove a provision that would have caused that measure to expire June 30, 2018, unless it were renewed.
The loss of the sunset provision was counter to the wishes of Joan Robbins, who served on the task force that examined seclusion and restraint issues.
Robbins thinks the bill’s provisions should expire and then be governed by the Kansas State Board of Education through the rules and regulations process.
Robbins said parents and advocacy groups mistakenly believe statutes are more enforceable than regulations. Both are binding and enforceable, she said, but regulations are easier to adjust as necessary.
The legislation formed by the conference committee contains the suicide prevention measures from Senate Bill 323, known as the Jason Flatt Act, and the seclusion and restraint provisions from House Bill 2534. The conference committee report is available for House and Senate votes.
Proponents of both bills had mixed feelings about them being combined.
Robbins said she was disappointed that the seclusion and restraint bill was attached to the Senate bill. She said she thought it could stand alone.
For proponents of the original SB 323, like Andrew Brown, the addition of the seclusion and restraint bill didn’t have any impact on the contents of the Jason Flatt Act, but it could mean further debate before the bill is passed.
Brown, who serves as executive director of Headquarters Inc., a nonprofit suicide prevention center, said earlier this week that he believes the limitation of seclusion and restraint in schools is a positive step, and combining the bills will increase its chances of getting a vote.
Allison Doss, who lost her daughter to suicide and testified in support of SB 323, said she thought the House listened to parents’ concerns about youth suicide and had no issue with the addition of the seclusion and restraint provision.
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