JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — State Rep. Ian Mackey, D-Clayton, filed legislation Friday to ban the seclusion of students in Missouri’s K-12 schools. House Bill 1677 would prevent every public or charter school in the state of Missouri from placing students in solitary confinement. If passed, Missouri would become the 10th state to ban seclusion of students, joining other red states like Florida and West Virginia.
Mackey, a former teacher, said that while educators need to strategize daily about how to manage disruptive, challenging and even violent behavior from students, too many schools punish students excessively through seclusion techniques, resulting in worse long-term outcomes.
“Successful classroom management practices deescalate disruptive behavior to reduce distractions and focus on curriculum, and that’s how most schools across our state operate,” Mackey said. “However, in too many schools, we unfortunately see adult interventions that escalate and exacerbate the problem and make it worse.
“Solitary confinement of students is not a feasible strategy to solving behavior challenges, and this bill will outlaw an ineffective and cruel practice.”
Mackey has made this legislation and similar bills a central priority during his time in the Missouri General Assembly. HB 432, signed into law in 2021 by Gov. Mike Parson, included provisions from bipartisan legislation sponsored by Mackey and former state Rep. Dottie Bailey, R-Eureka, that required school districts to closely monitor and report the use of seclusion of students to parents and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
As a result of that legislation, Missourians learned that last school year students were secluded in solitary confinement over 8,000 times, at least. While that represents only a fraction of students enrolled in schools across the state, Mackey believes highlights the urgent need to end this practice now.
“When this issue first came to the attention of lawmakers five years ago, there was a lot of skepticism,” Mackey said. “It was difficult for many to believe that children, as young as five years old, were being forced into padded rooms and locked behind steel doors. But now we have the data. We know it’s happening, we know it does far more harm than good, and we must put an end to it.”