Legislature To Consider Handcuffing Special Needs Children In Tennessee Schools, Method Of “Emergency” Restraint

Image Credit: Public Domain

The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –

This week the Senate Education Committee will be considering a bill to allow school resource officers (SROs) and school security officers to handcuff special needs children in “emergency” circumstances. 

Upon the request of Hamilton County School Board attorney Scott Bennett, Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson-District 11) and Rep. Greg Martin (R-Hamilton County-District 26) have filed this legislation as Senate Bill 0141 (SB0141) and House Bill 0127 (HB0127) respectively.

Read more here.

Tennessee law already allows SROs to use “mechanical restraints” on special needs children in such situations. SB0141/HB0127 would permit SROs to use handcuffs on these children as well. Both methods could very well cause lasting trauma for a child regardless of disability status. 

Furthermore, if implemented in a home environment or by a child’s parents, these methods of restraint would likely be considered child abuse.

The legislation wouldn’t stop at allowing the use of handcuffs though. If passed, the bill would also shield officers from civil liability. 

With several federal and state policies in place to protect children and students with disabilities, like the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, this bill runs the risk of being a civil rights violation. Moral and ethical factors aside, funding of special education programs is also largely tied to federal funds.

Ultimately, granting legal immunity to SROs and school security officers in this manner, opens the door for possible abuses of power and faulty definitions of what constitutes “emergency” circumstances.

School-age children with disabilities remain at a higher risk for maltreatment and abuse in comparison to other children their age.

While there may be situations in which special needs children need to be restrained in some way for their own protection or the protection of those around them, pretending that misuse of power is not a concern here could prove to be detrimental to children and families across the state. 

SB0141 has officially been scheduled for consideration by the Senate Education Committee on March 15th, 2023.

To make your voice heard on this legislation, please contact the members of the committee using the information below.

Jon Lundberg (Chair) (R) – sen.jon.lundberg@capitol.tn.gov – (615) 741-5761

Bill Powers (Vice-Chair) (R) – sen.bill.powers@capitol.tn.gov – (615) 741-2734

Raumesh Akbari (2nd Vice-Chair) (D) – sen.raumesh.akbari@capitol.tn.gov – (615) 741-1767

Rusty Crowe (R) – sen.rusty.crowe@capitol.tn.gov – (615) 741-2468

Todd Gardenhire (R) – sen.todd.gardenhire@capitol.tn.gov – (615) 741-6682

Ferrell Haile (R) – sen.ferrell.haile@capitol.tn.gov – (615) 741-1999

Joey Hensley (R) – sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov – (615) 741-3100

Mark Pody (R) – sen.mark.pody@capitol.tn.gov – (615) 741-2421

Dawn White (R) – sen.dawn.white@capitol.tn.gov – (615) 741-6853

About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Adelia at adelia@tennesseeconservativenews.com.

4 thoughts on “Legislature To Consider Handcuffing Special Needs Children In Tennessee Schools, Method Of “Emergency” Restraint

  • March 13, 2023 at 6:31 pm

    Having dealt with ‘special needs’ kids many, many years ago, I can still remember how violent some of them could become. Some became amazingly strong when having an “episode.” Teachers were often injured during these times. I do think if such a law is passed, specific times such restraints can be used must be included in the law. Teachers and SRO’s can have a bad day as well as the student. We mustn’t protect them at the expense of the child. It has to be remembered that no one form of punishment or restraint works for every child.

  • March 13, 2023 at 8:21 pm

    Many got no business in public school, need special schools for them.

  • March 14, 2023 at 1:48 am

    ‘Special needs” students have the same rights as any other student and to handcuff is abuse on every level. Remember the population being cornered here. A law such as this can be twisted and turned at the discretion of an angry teacher and officer with no understanding or knowledge, much less training and educated regarding the rights of any student. A certified special education teacher knows how to handle an agitated student and diffuse a situation before it escalates to “violence” as you all described. This would open up potentially deadly consequences for many students. Voting NO IS THE RIGHT VOTE.

    Special needs students have been attending schools for many years, in case you didn’t know.

  • March 15, 2023 at 3:05 am

    Although my 27 year old son is special-needs and now works with special needs kids, there is NO PLACE for handcuffs. That is insane. My son was physically hurt more than once by an autistic student and still would never suggest handcuffs.

    Hopefully people like the thinking above never have a child or grandchild with special needs.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *