Back in the Saddle. Even Gene Autry's trusty horse--Champion for those of you who don't remember--would be tired if he was spending this much time of the trail. The conference committee was back at it this morning shortly after 10 AM after adjourning last evening at approximately 11:30 PM.
The conference committee's morning proceedings was spent discussing the changes to the Behavior Intervention Rule contained in the House bill. This provision is not in the Senate bill. In fact, it wasn't even heard in the Senate E-12 Funding and Policy Division, meaning that the Senators needed to be brought up to speed on how this provision came to be and what the provision is attempting to address.
This provision has a long and somewhat interesting history. Several years ago, the Legislature directed the Minnesota Department of Education to develop rules relating to time-out and seclusion for use with students identified as having an Emotional Behavior Disorder. Those rules were dismissed by an Administrative Law Judge last year. In view of this fact, the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness convened a working group of interested stakeholders last summer with the goal of developing language that would both provide training for teachers and staff in dealing with EBD students through Positive Behavior Supports and also limit the use of seclusion, particularly locked-time out, to very narrow situations.
This is not a perfect bill, but it does not take effect until August, 2011. This should give school districts and advocacy groups ample time to develop and implement local school building strategies consistent with this legislation. Further, the special education funding in the federal stimulus package can be used for staff development in this area. The time and resources available should give school districts a fighting chance in meeting the goals of this legislation.
The afternoon has been spent working on provisions in both bills that are similar but not identical. As you recall, the conference committee adopted almost all of the identicial provisions in both bills last evening and we are now in the wordsmithing process to create consensus provisions where the basic thrust is identical, but language differences exist.