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Friday, January 27, 2023

TN bill would allow school security officers to use ‘mechanical restraints’ on students receiving special education

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — “A school resource officer, school security officer, or other law enforcement officer who is trained and certified for completing a behavior intervention training program may use a mechanical restraint on a student receiving special education services in an emergency situation.”

That’s what HB0127 reads.

“I’m bringing this bill to protect our school security officers to be able to help manage behavioral problems,” Rep. Greg Martin (R-Hamilton County) said.

Martin said the Hamilton County School Board attorney asked him to file this bill. Currently, only school resource officers can put a child receiving special education in handcuffs. This bill would expand that to include school security officers.

“They work a Monday through Friday job, they’re not a sworn deputy. Many of them are retired sheriff’s deputies, police officers, etc.,” Martin said. “They are not allowed to restrain a child who is having behavioral problems.”

The main difference between security officers and resource officers is the security officers are hired by the schools they provide service in. Resource officers are assigned a school by a local law enforcement agency – generally the sheriff or police department.

It’s a little more complex than that, but that’s the general idea.

When asked about potential blowback to his new bill, Martin seemed surprised.

“Well, I think it’s about protecting people from harming themselves and harming others,” he said. “Certainly, everyone in the legislature would be for protecting children from harming themselves and harming other children.”

Though Martin did mention the difficulty in finding a bill that’s completely unanimous.

“Well there are always people that take any good legislation and twist it and run it through the devil’s mill shop,” he said. “So, I always anticipate there being opposition to anything.”

And he’s right to have that mindset.

“That’s something we need to be very cautious in moving forward on,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said. “Being special needs, there are things that are out of their control. I think we need to tread very carefully.”

Clemmons, the Democrat Caucus Chairman, said this bill shouldn’t be a priority given other needs across the state.

“We need to make sure we’re more focused on protecting these children and educating these children than restraining them,” he said.

But Martin argued this bill precisely accomplishes that goal of protection.

“Cain slew Abel – Cain slew Abel,” he said. “Children can be violent.”

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