State bill aims to define types of behavior therapy allowed in classrooms

Changes could be coming to state law, after 9 Investigates exposed confusion and discrepancies across local school districts about the types of behavior therapy allowed in classrooms.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Changes could be coming to state law, after 9 Investigates exposed confusion and discrepancies across local school districts about the types of behavior therapy allowed in classrooms.

Investigative reporter Karla Ray first uncovered the problem after a Brevard County family was suddenly denied those services weeks into the semester.

Andrew Pogar has now gone without that therapy in school for nearly two months.

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Though Brevard County Public Schools said it plans to allow registered behavior technicians, or RBTs, back in class next semester, a change in the law would bring all districts in line.

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"We want to make sure school districts understand they all have to allow for our children to receive autism services, or ABA (applied behavior analytic) services, in our schools," state Rep. Rene Plasencia said.

Plasencia just filed House Bill 575, which would change the wording in current law to state clearly that "paraprofessionals who practice under the supervision" of a licensed applied behavior analyst are considered private instructional personnel in public schools.

Though RBTs are allowed under the law's current language, districts are not required to let them in.

Public schools in Lake, Volusia and Seminole counties already allow RBTs in classrooms, but schools in Osceola and Orange counties do not.

"It's how the state law is interpreted by each individual school district and the fact that the Department of Education isn't issuing a direct mandate on how they should follow the law," Plasencia said.  "I think it's sad for some of our school districts to knowingly are limiting a child to get services they need to be successful in life."

According to Brevard County Public Schools, the district's Student Services devision has drafted procedures and application forms for RBTs, as well as an agreement to be reviewed and signed by parents.

School principals and their staffs will need to be trained on the procedures and their intent. For example, RBTs, who are not school employees, will need to understand student confidentiality rules and that they are there to assist students with specific instructional or other identifiable student needs.

The goal is to get the training done and start approving applications between the Thanksgiving and winter breaks.