TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida teachers and other school staff are now banned from using mechanical restraints on students in sixth grade or higher after a House Bill was signed into law by the governor on Friday.

The legislation, House Bill 235, works simply, with only a paragraph to make its change. Going forward, only security personnel can use restraints on children in school settings.

Starting July 1, only Florida’s school resource officers, school safety officers, school guardians or security guards are allowed to physically restrain a student in middle school or older. The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday.

According to analysis of the bill, restraints are defined as “mechanical or physical restraints” or devices that “restrict” a student’s “freedom of movement.”

In addition to narrowing which personnel are legally allowed to restrain a student, the bill also restricts the circumstances in which restraints may be used. Beginning July 1, restraints may only be used “in emergency situations when an imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others exists.”

Further, the analysis of the legislation clarifies that the purpose of the change is to preserve student dignity and reduce the potential for emotional impacts on students. The law is intended to stress “the importance of students with disabilities being treated with respect and dignity in an environment that provides for the physical safety and security of students and staff.”

Cases that meet the emergency use requirement are described in the analysis as follows:

  • “Imminent risk of serious injury” means the threat posed by dangerous behavior that may cause
    serious physical harm to self or others.
  • “Restraint” means the use of a mechanical or physical restraint.
  • “Mechanical restraint” means the use of a device that restricts a student’s freedom of
    movement. The term does not include the use of devices prescribed or recommended by
    physical or behavioral health professionals when used for indicated purposes.
  • “Physical restraint” means the use of manual restraint techniques that involve significant
    physical force applied by a teacher or other staff member to restrict the movement of all or part
    of a student’s body. The term does not include briefly holding a student in order to calm or
    comfort the student or physically escorting a student to a safe location.
  • “Positive behavior interventions and supports” means the use of behavioral interventions to
    prevent dangerous behaviors that may cause serious physical harm to the student or others.