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A new law went into effect recently that prohibits the use of certain aversive techniques on students enrolled in public schools.

The law (H.B. No. 3630, Section 37.0023 to Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code) defines “aversive technique” as “a technique or intervention that is intended to reduce the likelihood of a behavior recurring by intentionally inflicting on a student significant physical or emotional discomfort or pain.”

The statute sets out a list of techniques and interventions it deems to fall within that definition, such as if the infliction:

  • is designed to or likely to cause physical pain, other than an intervention or technique used legitimately as corporal punishment;
  • is designed to or likely to cause physical pain through the use of electric shock or any procedure that involves the use of pressure points or joint locks;
  • involves the directed release of a noxious, toxic, or otherwise unpleasant spray, mist, or substance near the student’s face;
  • denies adequate sleep, air, food, water, shelter, bedding, physical comfort, supervision, or access to a restroom facility;
  • ridicules or demeans the student in a manner that adversely affects or endangers the learning or mental health of the student or constitutes verbal abuse;
  • employs a device, material, or object that simultaneously immobilizes all four extremities, including any procedure that results in such immobilization known as prone or supine floor restraint;
  • restricts the student’s circulation;
  • secures the student to a stationary object while the student is in a sitting or standing position;
  • inhibits, reduces, or hinders the student’s ability to communicate;
  • involves the use of a chemical restraint;
  • constitutes a use of timeout that precludes the student from being able to be involved in and progress appropriately in the required curriculum and, if applicable, toward the annual goals included in the student’s individualized education program, including isolating the student by the use of physical barriers; or
  • except as provided by Subsection (c), deprives the student of the use of one or more of the student’s senses.

An aversive technique also includes one that impairs the student’s breathing, including any procedure that involves applying pressure to the student’s torso or neck; or obstructing the student’s airway, including placing an object in, on, or over the student’s mouth or nose or placing a bag, cover, or mask over the student’s face.

This law applies to school district employees, volunteers, and independent contractors.  It does not apply to a technique that does not cause the student pain or discomfort; or complies with the student’s individualized education program or behavior intervention plan.

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