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Use of Restraints in Schools Up

RestraintBy Anne Dachel

On May 17, CBS5 in Scottsdale, AZ aired the story, Family of autistic student alleges assault, cover-up during use of restraints at school 

For parents of children disabled with autism, there are lots of worries, especially when they go off to school. (I say this as the mom of a 31 year old son who spent a lot of 3rd grade sitting UNDER his desk.)

Behavior that stems from anxiety and fear can have serious results in school, as this CBS5 story shows.

Sean McCarthy is NON-VERBAL (like an estimated 25% of the autism community), and his family noticed a change in his behavior. They linked it to what was happening to him at school in Scottsdale, and it resulted in a lawsuit.

“In newly filed state and federal lawsuits, the McCarthys allege untrained school staff repeatedly restrained their son - physically grabbed and held him - without informing the family as required by a 2015 law.

“The lawsuits also claim district administrators failed to turn over key records and school employees took steps to cover up their actions.”

This went on for two years:

Sean’s parents claim that what happened to their son was assault.

“The family’s federal lawsuit, which was filed this month, claims the restraints were unlawful and amounted to assaults. The lawsuit seeks punitive damages.

“Scottsdale Unified declined to comment on the case because it involves pending litigation, but in court documents, the district denied the family’s allegations and maintained the restraints were legal. The district said the restraints were used to protect students or staff from Sean ‘biting, hitting, kicking, flailing and punching.’

Schools in Arizona have had the legal right to use restraint and seclusion since 2015— when ‘behavior presents an imminent danger of bodily harm to [themselves] or others.’

Incidents soared

The 2015-16 survey was released last month. It shows approximately 880 students experienced at least one restraint that year in the schools we analyzed.

The number of cases of seclusion jumped 22 percent in the latest survey, from 899 instances in 2013-14 to 1,153 in 2015-16. Approximately 351 students were secluded in 2015-16. Student counts are an approximation because districts are allowed to round their figures in the survey for privacy reasons.

In cases of both restraint and seclusion, 90 percent of the incidents involved students with disabilities.”

Soaring increase in autism, stunning increase in restraint and seclusion


Non-verbal kids who can’t alert parents to what’s happening

For families of non-verbal students like the McCarthys, the idea of underreporting restraint or seclusion data is particularly frustrating.

“In Sean's case, he can't talk,” said Mary McCarthy. “We have no other way of knowing what's happening to him but to trust the people he's with.”

This one story is very troubling. NOW add a couple more.


May 9, 2018, ABC9, Cedar Rapids, IA: I9 UPDATE: (VIDEO) Iowa schools' use of seclusion, restraint has nearly doubled since 2013

… School districts are required to report how often they use seclusion rooms or restraints to the U.S. Department of Education. The agency has now posted 2015 data. I9 dug through the numbers in 23 school districts in eastern Iowa and found there were a combined 4,904 instances of seclusion and restraint. That is 27 instances per school day.

The new numbers nearly double the 2,514 instances reported in 2013. There were in all 4,904 instances documented in 2015.

April 20, 2018, (NPR) KASU Radio, Bentonville, AR: Learning To Behave: Bentonville School District Experiments With Behavior Intervention Classrooms

…Today, many public schools offer alternative learning environments for students with behavioral and emotional problems. Bentonville Public School District in Northwest Arkansas, however, has installed two intervention-rich elementary “behavior classrooms” to help children learn how to overcome chronic disruptive behavior….

To help disruptive students learn to overcome anti-social tendencies, the district is sequestering children in two new behavior classrooms.  Teacher Stefanie Siedsma says the rooms have been given a special name.  

“Because behavior rooms may have a stigma attached," she says, "we decided to call it CLUB Academy, which stands for cultivating learning using best practices." …

…Each classroom can accommodate up to six students and is staffed with a special education instructor and two paraprofessionals. Rows of desks have been removed, replaced by a half dozen workstations. Along with grade-level math, literacy and science courses, the children receive intensive behavior interventions each day….

Mar 18, 2018, The CT Mirror: How Safe Are CT Students at School

This lack of progress in stemming aggressive behaviors is happening as student suspension and expulsion rates steadily decline – and as some mental health experts and teachers in Connecticut point out that services aimed at helping children overcome their behavioral issues are not always sufficient. Since the shooting at Sandy Hook, the number of mental health staff that districts employ has grown more slowly than increases in school security staff.

That dynamic has fueled a debate over whether the state’s push to reduce student suspensions and expulsions – and instead provide students with supports so they can stay in school – actually is working to make schools safer. …

Unchanged: The number of violent incidents

“Classrooms have to be repeatedly cleared when a student becomes violent,” Ava Biffer, a library media specialist in East Haddam, testified before the Education Committee last week.

“The behavior is getting worse,” testified Jennifer Babb, an art teacher at an elementary school in Bridgeport.

 “There are so many risks to other students and educators in the classroom, and if other parents actually knew what was happening, they would be shocked,” testified Laurie Degross, a special education teacher in East Hampton.

These teachers were among many – including some who had been assaulted by students – testifying about the dangers they face at school and in support of a bill that would require school leaders to develop plans to specifically address “daily classroom safety” problems, such as assault and harassment. State law, already requires safety plans to address bullying, security and responses to emergencies.

The overall number of violent incidents reported in Connecticut public schools has remained pretty stagnant, but this has happened as enrollment has steadily declined – by 3.5 percent since Sandy Hook.

At the same time, however, some kinds of incidents related to aggressive behavior have increased.

For example, there has been a steady increase in incidents of fighting at school — about 1,800 more since 2010-11. That’s a 12 percent increase. Physical and verbal confrontations also have increased. …

Mental health staff in schools growing incrementally…

Even with the rapid growth of school security in recent years, there are still far more mental health staff than security staff at schools. Last school year, there were 3,415 full-time social workers, counselors and psychologist compared to 900 security staff. …

 “Aggressive behavior tends to be a symptom of certain diagnostic categories but it may not be a feature of others. The label isn’t really the important part. The important part is kids are resilient and can recover from trauma, they can recover from behavioral health conditions if they have the right supports.”

Michelle Glade, a fourth-grade teacher in Avon, testified last week that students aren’t getting that support.

“Students who are disruptive are not receiving the help they need,” she said. “The bottom line is there are many children who are hurting today, more than at any other time in my career.  …

 “He continues to verbally abuse staff and disrupt class on a daily basis. The safety plan in place for this child is for the teacher to get students out of the room if he becomes violent,” said Karen Giannamore, an art teacher.

“Students who are disruptive are not receiving the help they need.” …

I can state emphatically that the explosion in neurologically damaged (most notably those with AUTISM) are behind this whole issue. Of course no one will talk  about the connection.

There’s more.

May 16, 2018, (Canada, British Columbia) CBC: Students with special needs in B.C. still face seclusion, physical restraint in schools

A new report from the advocacy group, Inclusion B.C., claims routine restraint and seclusion of children with special needs in schools hasn't improved much since its previous report in 2013 led to new guidelines — prompting the provincial education minister to promise new guidelines for schools by the end of the calendar year.

"Families and others across the province continue to report disturbing incidents and patterns of conduct, inadequate staff training and support and a systemic lack of oversight and accountability," reads the report, titled Stop Hurting Kids II.

The report, released on Wednesday, is based on a survey of 170 people who self-identified as parents or guardians of a student who was subjected to restraint or seclusion in the 2016-2017 school year.

According to the report, forms of restraint include students being pinned to a wall with a beanbag, tied to a chair, forced into a Rubbermaid tote, carried or dragged and pulled by a collar. The restraint allegedly took place in a range of settings from the playground and classroom to the principal's office….

After the report's release, B.C. Teachers' Federation President Glen Hansman said he agrees with the report's recommendations to increase support in schools….

"The challenge teachers face while working with students who may be prone to physical outbursts, like hitting, kicking, spitting, or biting, is that safety plans are not always properly communicated, or staff are not given adequate in-service training."

It’s even gotten the attention of members of the U.S. Senate. In fact 3 members of Congress have noticed that schools today are different. Locking kids in padded cells hardly seems compatible with the nurturing atmosphere that schools are supposed to provide.  (These are the same legislators who yawn through each update in the autism rate.)

May 15, 2018, Des Moines Register: Iowa senators call for federal investigation into school seclusion rooms


U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are calling for a federal investigation into the use of seclusion rooms in public schools, and U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack wants to see them banned altogether.

Many Iowa school districts, including Des Moines Public Schools, use seclusion rooms — often padded, 6-foot by 6-foot wooden boxes — to restrain children, typically following violent outbursts.

The practice is legal in Iowa, but it has sparked controversy in recent years.

The Iowa City school district said it would stop using seclusion rooms at the end of this school year following a state investigation.

An Iowa Department of Education ruling found that the Iowa City school district violated state and federal law in the way it used seclusion rooms, including occasionally using them for "minor infractions."

Iowa City used seclusion rooms 698 times in the 2015-16 school year, according to a district report.

At the time, there were 30 seclusion rooms in schools throughout the district. Fourteen of those rooms have since been removed or repurposed. The remaining 16 seclusion rooms will be discontinued by the 2018-19 school year.

Other reports have found the use of seclusion rooms has been under-reported by some Iowa schools.

In Des Moines, four schools that serve high-needs students use seclusion rooms when students become a danger to themselves, staff or other students, spokesman Phil Roeder said. The rooms are monitored by an adult when being used. …

Ernst and Grassley's offices confirmed the senators have reached out to both the U.S. Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Education. …

In addition, Loebsack, a Democrat, said he wants to see all seclusion rooms discontinued.

"At the federal level, I believe it is past time to take action and prohibit any state or local education entity from allowing students to be put in seclusion rooms," Loebsack, a former teacher, said. "All of Iowa’s students would benefit from positive behavioral interventions that support student learning and engagement.”

Brain—damaged children are changing education forever in America, just as they will eventually our entire society.

Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.



Liz V

As a mom of a 5 year old autistic son and a teacher in the public school system, I can attest that; 1. I worry about my son every day but trust in the relationship I have with his Pre-K teacher because she really cares about him and 2. Schools in general are not equipped for what we are seeing in our students at all. We have newly instituted a recovery room for students with behavioral issues and it is FULL every day. These are not diagnosed special education students but based upon my experience as a mom and teacher for 20 years....what we are seeing is definitely what everyone here thinks....damage to our children. I will not give my son another vax ever.

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