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Abercrombie to sign bill outlawing seclusion, restraint as student punishments

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Cell phone video of student being held down by staffers at Kipapa Elementary. Cell phone video of student being held down by staffers at Kipapa Elementary.
Exterior of Kipapa Elementary School in Mililani. Exterior of Kipapa Elementary School in Mililani.

A bill designed to protect some of Hawaii's most vulnerable students will be signed into law by Governor Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday.

House Bill 1796 prohibits the use of seclusion and physical restraint on students in public schools. State Rep. John Mizuno authored the bill after several Hawaii News Now investigations revealed special education students at Kipapa Elementary had been severely abused.

In early 2013, Hawaii News Now learned that the families of six disabled students had come forward with allegations of abuse by staffers at the Mililani School. Cell phone images of one student being held down by the neck were released, and a lawsuit alleged that another student was forced to eat food she had thrown up.

At the time of the allegations, the state said its own investigation had uncovered no evidence of abuse and that the women who made the initial claims were lying. Earlier this year, an administrative law judge ruled the students had been physically and emotionally abused by school staffers and suggested that the state had botched its investigation into the abuse.

Rep. Mizuno says that the signing of the bill will outlaw 'archaic practices' that he compared to child abuse.

There is an exception to the law that allows restraining a student who poses an imminent danger to himself or anyone else.

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