Bill to authorize physical intervention by teachers considered

The Education Committee heard testimony Feb. 28 on a bill intended to help Nebraska teachers control violent and disruptive students.

Sen. Dave Murman
Sen. Dave Murman

LB811, sponsored by Glenvil Sen. Dave Murman, would authorize teachers and other school personnel to use reasonable physical intervention to manage student behavior to protect the student or another person from physical injury.

Murman said he introduced the bill at the request of the Nebraska State Education Association, the state teachers’ union. Many Nebraska teachers are leaving the profession because of increasing violence among students in schools, he said, exacerbating the state’s teacher shortage.

“We have to allow teachers to defend themselves, their students, their classroom and their school hallways,” Murman said.

His proposal also would require each school district to ensure that teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, school nurses and counselors receive behavioral awareness and intervention training before the end of the 2026-27 school year. The district could offer the training to other school staff at its discretion.

The training, which would be funded by state lottery proceeds, would include:
• recognition of detrimental factors impacting student behavior, including signs of trauma;
• positive behavior support and proactive teaching strategies;
• verbal intervention and de-escalation techniques;
• clear guidelines on removing students from and returning them to a class;
• behavioral interventions and supports following student removal from a class; and
• physical intervention for safety.

Isau Metes testified in support of the bill on behalf of the NSEA, saying teachers need the option of physical intervention to keep students safe from others who become violent in the classroom. LB811 would protect teachers from professional and administrative discipline for using physical intervention as long as they act reasonably, she said.

“Educators across the state are begging for training and sound policies and procedures to ensure safe and productive learning environments for all students,” Metes said.

Testifying in opposition to the bill was Brad Meurrens of Disability Rights Nebraska. He said the proposed reasonableness standard is too subjective and could lead to increased use of physical restraint, which is used disproportionately against students with disabilities.

Additionally, Meurrens said, LB811 would conflict with the “patchwork” of existing school policies governing the use of physical restraint, and he suggested that lawmakers require such policies to be uniform so that a student’s protections are not dependent on where they live.

Also in opposition was Lauren Micek Vargas of Education Rights Council, who said the bill is “grossly permissive” of physical intervention. She said many cases of physical intervention in Nebraska schools involve children between 4 and 7 who act out because they are not receiving appropriate services for their disabilities.

Micek Vargas said LB811 would allow any school personnel, whether trained or not, to use physical intervention against students, including students with disabilities who have an individualized education plan that prohibits restraint.

“Not only is this a violation of law, it is dangerous,” she said, “and LB811 doesn’t permit anyone to be held accountable when it all goes wrong.”

Kyle McGowan testified in opposition to the bill on behalf of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, the Nebraska Association of School Boards and two groups representing Nebraska school districts.

He said current law allows teachers to use reasonable physical intervention to control student behavior. By proposing protections from professional and administrative discipline, McGowan said, LB811 would appear to give teachers license to use physical intervention.

“Over the years, our organizations have supported efforts for additional training,” he said. “However, [we] will not support any efforts which attempt to encourage or even insinuate that more physical intervention between school personnel and students creates a better learning environment.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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