Representative Jim Neely's Capitol Report
Missouri House to Consider Legislation to Strengthen Seclusion & Restraint Laws
During the 2020 legislation session lawmakers will consider legislation to strengthen Missouri’s law regarding seclusion and restraint of children in schools. HB 1568 was filed during the pre-filing period that began in the Missouri House on Monday, Dec. 2. The sponsor of the bill filed the legislation two weeks after the governor of Illinois issued an emergency rule banning all seclusion in Illinois schools.
Seclusion and restraint policies are meant to give educators an option to deal with troublesome students by restraining them or removing them to a separate space. These practices are meant to be used as a last resort, but their misuse has led to controversy. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the policies are most often used on students with disabilities and special needs.
The bill’s sponsor said seclusion and restraint are dangerous practices and violate the sanctity of parental rights. Since there is no federal law regulating the content of seclusion or restraint policies, many states have adopted laws to strengthen policies and protect students and parental rights. Thirty states have laws providing comprehensive protections against seclusion and restraint while 39 states have protective laws for students with disabilities.
Under current law, Missouri does not offer either of these protections. It currently has one of the weakest seclusion and restraint laws in the country, allowing abusive practices that disproportionately involve the most vulnerable children, those with disabilities. Existing law is vague regarding seclusion and restraint. It does not even define these two actions. Schools must adopt a seclusion and restraint policy but little guidance is given in state law as to what this policy must contain.
Lawmakers to Consider Bills to Fight Intravenous Drug Abuse and the Spread of HIV
The Missouri House again will weigh bills aimed at fighting intravenous drug abuse, and consider a bipartisan effort to fight a stigma against those infected with HIV.
One lawmaker has pre-filed legislation to legalize programs that give drug abusers clean needles, and for the seventh consecutive year has filed legislation to make statewide a monitoring program for drug prescriptions. Lawmakers have also filed bills to change Missouri law that criminalizes exposing someone to HIV.
Supporters say needle exchange programs have been operating in the state for years, and don’t entice people to start abusing intravenous drugs. Rather, they say, they ensure abusers aren’t transmitting diseases through dirty needles and it puts them in contact with medical providers who can facilitate getting them into treatment.
Several such programs already operate in Missouri, though they are doing so against the letter of the law. HB 1486 would exempt those programs from the crime of “unlawful delivery of drug paraphernalia.”
House Bills 1691 and 1692 would reduce or eliminate the penalties for knowingly exposing someone with HIV. Backers say the current penalties are too steep – the punishment for knowingly exposing to HIV someone who contracts the disease is on par with those for murder, rape, and forcible kidnapping.
Supporters say the harsh penalties are actually helping the spread of HIV by discouraging people from getting tested. I can for see some interesting debate on the house floor regarding these bills.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however, I can. I can be reached by email at Jim.Neely@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-0246.