HB 111: No Kids In Cuffs

HB 111 closes a public policy loophole on students’ physical restraint, 10 and under, by peace officers and school security personnel, unless they pose a serious risk of harm to themselves or others.

Research tells us that when children have harmful interactions with law enforcement, everybody suffers. We know children who are handcuffed are less likely to trust law enforcement afterward. Law enforcement officers who physically restrain children are more likely to report experiencing mental health problems such as stress and anxiety.

Closing the public policy loophole to physically restrain children unless the child poses a serious threat will reduce or even prevent the resulting trauma for both parties.

The previous version of this bill, HB 2975 (87R) was authored by Rep. Lacey Hull (R) and joint-authored by Rep. Tom Oliverson (R), Rep. Joe Moody (D), Rep. Briscoe Cain (R), and Rep. Bernal (D). It is Co-authored by Rep. Alma Allen (D), Rep. Sam Harless (R), Rep. Terry Meza (D), Rep. Ron Reynolds (D), and Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D).

Follow the bill here –> https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup

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Current Policy On Restraints

The Texas Education Agency defines restraint as the use of physical force or a mechanical device to significantly restrict the free movement of all or a portion of the student’s body. The Texas Education Code currently places the responsibility on the commissioner to develop the school’s policy on restraints in accordance with specific guidelines, creating the possibility for varying approaches according to the district. We hope that HB 111 will serve as a guiding star for all of Texas by creating a clear policy that alleviates some of the pressure schools and student resource officers face.

HB 111 aims to mitigate the distress that stems from handcuffing or witnessing a child be handcuffed, especially those aged ten and younger. These children are still in elementary school and have yet to reach many of their developmental milestones. The action of restraining a child may be incredibly difficult to witness, let alone to experience. Through this bill, the restraint of children would only occur in the most urgent of circumstances, especially when harm to the student or those surrounding them will happen rapidly.

The Data

  • ~45,000 incidents in which students were restrained during the 2018-19 school year in Texas.
  • 91% of all reported restraints in Texas involve students with disabilities even though they make up just under 10% of the state’s student population.
  • 26% of restraints statewide involve black students, even though they only constitute approximately 12% of the state’s student population.

Impact and Testimony

The decision to handcuff a child is never made lightly and is incredibly difficult for officers to make. Every officer, chief, and union we met with shared the stress and heartache that arises from that decision.

The severity of handcuffing a child and the distress that follows extends to every party involved, including the student’s classmates. Students aged ten and younger often do not understand why their peer’s misbehavior led to such a strong response. Many will become confused and upset, and some may even wonder if they, too, are at risk of being handcuffed.

Colleen Cicchetti, the director of the Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital and clinical director of the Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition, attested to the trauma of witnessing arrests, which can hold severe consequences.

“Trauma interrupts a child’s brain development… It changes [their] wiring [and] impedes development when it happens at an early age.” Liza Suarez, co-director of the Urban Youth Trauma Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, spoke of these adverse effects, verifying the extensive impact trauma may hold.

Trauma may manifest in severely detrimental ways, whether it be academically, socially, developmentally, or a combination of the three. These lingering effects are especially harmful to the child who has been restrained, who may grow to believe that they are delinquent and problematic. The damage to their self-image may alter how they interact with their peers and authority figures.

Julian Ford, a clinical psychologist and director of the Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice, further substantiated the harm of restraints. She stated that “any child that experiences…physical restraint will have [an] intense stress reaction and shift into survival mode. Years will pass before a child is able to recover.”

Moreover, the U.S. Department of Education verified that the use of restraints does not reduce students’ misbehavior. Researchers and physiologists have found that they may have the inverse effect by sending the implicit message that it is okay to respond with physical force.

Dr. Kathryn Seifert, a clinical psychologist, specializing in violence prevention and risk reduction, mentioned these ramifications, explaining it may “teach children that the use of force is the best way to settle disputes…Aggression breeds more aggression.”

With these findings in mind and the insight of our officers, members of the school community, and dedicated advocacy groups, we firmly believe that HB 111 is a critical step to protecting all parties involved.

Our greatest hope in proposing this legislation is that no child aged ten or younger will be restrained, no party would have to make the choice to restrain a child, and no officer will have to carry the unforgettable memory of handcuffing a child.