FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Date August 8, 2023
CONTACT: Karen Rosenberg, Policy Director
Disability Rights Center – New Hampshire
(603) 228-0432 or firstname.lastname@example.org
New Laws Strengthen Protections for At-Risk Youth
Two bills recently signed into law amend and expand RSA 126-U, NH’s law limiting the use of restraint and seclusion in schools and facilities (including youth detention centers, group homes, crisis homes, and other residential treatment centers).
“Restraint and seclusion are dangerous and place children at risk of physical and emotional harm. By passing SB 179 and HB 491, the Granite State has strengthened its commitment to protect children with disabilities and all youth from these dangerous punitive practices,” said Karen Rosenberg, Policy Director of Disability Rights Center – NH.
HB 491 makes it clear that RSA 126-U’s ban on the use of dangerous restraint techniques specifically prohibits the use of prone restraint. Prone restraint is generally considered the most dangerous method of physical restraint, placing children at risk of restricted breathing and suffocation.
“By clearly prohibiting the use of prone restraint in schools and treatment centers, New Hampshire has put the health and safety of children first. As a legislator it’s always a good thing when you can play a small part in enacting changes that better protect our most vulnerable kids,” said Representative David Meuse, sponsor of HB 491.
SB 179 amends RSA 126-U by clarifying that children are secluded not only when they are actually unable to exit or leave an area where they have been involuntarily placed, but also when they “reasonably believe” that they are unable to leave.
“Solitary confinement can cause extreme psychological, physical, and developmental harm. For children, who are still developing and more vulnerable to irreparable harm, the risks are magnified – particularly for kids with disabilities or histories of trauma and abuse. I am thrilled the Legislature and Governor saw the importance of passing this important legislation,” said Senator Debra Altschiller, sponsor of SB 179.
In addition, SB 179 extends the definition of seclusion to include when children are involuntarily confined to an area with staff who are preventing them from leaving, but not engaging the children in a therapeutic intervention. Finally, when children are secluded, the law now requires that they be assigned a co-regulator to help them regain their composure and return to less restrictive settings.
With the passage of both these laws, some of our state’s most vulnerable youth, including those with disabilities, now have greater protection against the use of these harmful and even fatal practices.
DRC-NH protects, advances, and strengthens the legal rights and advocacy interests of all people with disabilities. More information about DRC-NH can be found at http://www.drcnh.org.