Missouri lawmakers hope to ban seclusion in schools

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Friday marked the first day for Missouri lawmakers to pre-file bills that they hope will become law next year. One state representative filed a bill that would ban solitary confinement for K-12 students in public and charter schools.

State Rep. Ian Mackey (D-Clayton) is a former teacher. He backed a 2021 law that required schools to report cases of seclusion to parents and the state. The issue has been the subject of several FOX Files investigations.

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Tracey Bloch, director of legislative advocacy for the Missouri Disability Empowerment Foundation, credits the attention for bringing greater awareness to the issue.

“We have a lot of clients and a lot of family members who are put into seclusion rooms, and we are still trying to work through the trauma that all of that entails,” said Bloch.

Mackey said last school year, Missouri students were sent to solitary confinement at least 8,000 times. He believes too many schools punish students excessively through seclusion techniques, resulting in worse long-term outcomes.

“A lot of parents didn’t even realize this was happening in schools,” said Bloch. She said knowing how often seclusion takes place can help fuel a collaborative approach to finding alternative solutions.

Missouri’s next legislative session begins January 3. Mackey said if lawmakers pass his bill, Missouri will become the 10th state to ban seclusion.

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