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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Debate Over Restraint and Seclusion

A few days ago, the Education Department issued a report with data on restraint and seclusion. Last week, the American Association of School Administrators released a new report entitled "Keeping Schools Safe: How Seclusion and Restraint Protects Students and School Personnel."  From the release:
The study documents the importance of preserving school districts’ ability to use seclusion and restraint techniques in situations where a student is in danger of hurting himself, another student, or a school staff member.
“These techniques enable schools to educate students with severe behavioral difficulties in the least restrictive environment possible,” said Daniel Domenech, AASA executive director, in introducing the report. “These are practices that keep everyone safe.
At Education Week, Nirvi Shah reports:
However TASH says the AASA report "is unsubstantiated, ill-informed and reckless." TASH, formerly The Association for the Severely Handicapped, was particularly incensed over a statement in AASA's report that implies that the choice for some students is to either be restrained and/or isolated or institutionalized.
The National Disability Rights Network has a new report of its own, "School Is Not Supposed to Hurt."  From the executive summary:
ED [The US Department of Education] 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 should fund demonstration projects to test what works.
ED can prevent future injuries and deaths by investigating restraint and seclusion (even where there is no individual complaint) and requiring school districts to take appropriate corrective action.
Back in January, the Autism National Committee released a report titled "How Safe Is the Schoolhouse?"  From the executive summary:
Today, there are 29 states with statutes and regulations providing meaningful protections against restraint and/or seclusion. (In 2009, there were only 22.) These have the force of
law and must be obeyed. Even the 29 states offer varying protections, with key safeguards present in some states and missing in others. There are 13 states with nonbinding guidelines, but these lack the force of law and can be readily changed by the State Department of Education. They are not the equivalent of statutes or regulations.