New Report on Restraint and Seclusion on School Children

March 06, 2012

For Immediate Release                             Contact: David Card

NDRN: Department of ED Must Do More to Stop Restraint and Seclusion of School Children

WASHINGTON – In a new report released today, the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) called on the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to do more to reduce and prevent the use of restraint and seclusion on school children.

“ED has not provided any meaningful leadership to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion − despite the fact that students are continuing to be confined, tied up, pinned down, battered and nearly killed on a regular basis,” said NDRN executive director Curt Decker.

This report is the third in a series of reports on restraint and seclusion by NDRN called School Is Not Supposed to Hurt. The first two reports were issued in 2009 and 2010. Many others, including the Government Accountability Office, have reported on deaths and injuries resulting from the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

In this report, NDRN argues that ED is in the unique position to issue strong national guidance to state education agencies and local school districts about when the use of restraint and seclusion might violate anti-discrimination and education laws, similar to the guidance that the Office of Civil Rights has already issued on bullying and harassment. The guidance must at a minimum address that the use of physical restraint or seclusion is limited to circumstances when necessary to protect a child or others from imminent physical danger.

ED is also in the unique position to pull together a national summit of researchers, educators, mental health professionals and others to discuss whether restraint and seclusion has any therapeutic value and to develop evidence-based best practices to prevent and reduce the use of restraint and seclusion. ED should collaborate with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in this effort because SAMHSA has successfully supported efforts over the last decade to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion in mental health facilities.

ED can also prevent future injuries and deaths by investigating restraint and seclusion and requiring school districts to take appropriate corrective action.

Finally, ED can define the scope of the problem and how to address it by immediately using data it has collected for the 2009-2010 school year about the use of restraint and seclusion. ED should determine which school districts and schools have unusually high numbers of restraint and seclusion incidents, analyze what might be causing this, determine why children of color and/or those with disabilities are being disproportionately affected, and then fund demonstration and research projects to reduce – and eventually eliminate − restraint and seclusion in those schools.

“The examples in our report from Connecticut about scream rooms, and Kentucky where a boy was stuffed in a duffel bag, show the need for ED to take positive and strong actions,” continued Decker. “NDRN calls upon ED to take a stand and protect our school children by following the concrete suggestions proposed in this report.”

A copy of the report can be found at www.ndrn.org.

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