Some Missouri state lawmakers behind an effort to ban most uses of seclusion rooms, which are small rooms with little to no furniture or accommodations, are hoping to find success early in the 2020 legislative session.
"Let's take care of our kids first... and then we can get on with the rest of the business of the state," said Republican Rep. Dottie Bailey of Eureka, who sponsored the bill.
“What we want to prevent is the misuse of small spaces where children are placed alone," said Democratic Rep. Ian Mackey of St. Louis.
The measure would prohibit schools from using seclusion rooms, also called isolation rooms, outside of emergencies that involve the well-being of students and staff.
The bill is among the first to be assigned to a committee. Bailey said House Speaker Elijah Haahr is behind the idea along with Democrats.
Bailey and Rep. Chuck Basye of Rocheport said they learned of the practice only recently.
"I have two kids. So immediately my thoughts go, 'my god, what if my kiddo was-' they’d be horrified. So as a mom, I got angry," Bailey told ABC 17 News.
Bailey, Basye and Mackey held a conference Monday alongside members of the group Missouri Disability Empowerment (MODE) to discuss the bill.
A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for eight a.m. Tuesday in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, of which Basye is the chairman.
The lawmakers presented three pictures during the conference to showcase examples of seclusion rooms.
Two of the pictures showed rooms inside of Columbia Public School's Center for Responsive Education (CORE) building, which the district said was misleading.
CPS spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said that the pictures were taken during the building's construction and that the rooms are now being used by a private company, Catapult Learning, that leased part of the building.
Baumstark added that none of the lawmakers at the hearing contacted CPS prior to presenting the images.