Q: I know there was a new law passed this legislative session prohibiting certain aversive techniques. I have teachers at the junior high that put kids in the hallway as a timeout. Is a teacher allowed to use timeout as an intervention in this way?
A: Likely not. House Bill 3630 prohibits the use of timeout, “including isolation by the use of physical barriers, that precludes students from being involved in and progressing appropriately in curriculum.”
HB 3630, which went into effect September 1, 2019. The bill prevents the use of an aversive technique defined as “a technique or intervention that is intended to reduce the likelihood of a behavior reoccurring by intentionally inflicting on a student significant physical or emotional discomfort or pain.” Timeout is listed as one of the 13 examples of aversive techniques prohibited by HB 3630, but only when it “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.”
With the implementation of HB 3630, putting a student in the hall is no longer an acceptable form of timeout, as it not only isolates the student using a physical barrier (wall, door), but also removes the student from participating in instruction and curriculum. Additionally, putting a student in the corner with their back to the teacher and classroom is also arguably unacceptable. Being placed in the corner removes the student from being involved in instruction and curriculum which is expressly prohibited. Other methods of timeout that do not exclude the student from instruction and do not isolate the student are permitted. An example of an acceptable timeout intervention would be moving a student’s desk to the front of the room by the teacher’s desk. This technique allows the student to continue participating in curriculum without isolating the student by physical barriers.
It should be noted that the statute specifically states that this time-out provision does not prohibit a teacher from removing a student from their class under Section 37.002. The statute also states that the Commissioner shall provide guidance in avoiding violation, so be on the lookout (likely this Spring) for additional information from the Commissioner. Consult with your district’s legal counsel with any questions and guidance until the Commissioner’s guidance is rolled out.