Christina A. Samuels reports at Education Week:
One out of every 100 special education students was restrained by school personnel or secluded in school from his or her peers in the 2013-14 school year, presumably to quell behavior that teachers considered disruptive or dangerous.
That means nearly 70,000 special education students were restrained or secluded in that school year, the most recent for which data are available. For most students, this happened more than once: States reported more than 200,000 such incidents, so on average, a special education student was restrained or secluded about three times.
These statistics, based on an analysis by the Education Week Research Center of data collected by the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights, represent the best national snapshot of these controversial practices.
The numbers are also, almost surely, dramatically understated.
[Michigan] Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, a Republican, led a commission that was asked to recommend reforms to the state's special education program. For that work, he traveled around the state to hear parents' concerns about restraint and seclusion.
"It's really unbelievable, some of the things I've heard," said Calley, who has a daughter with autism spectrum disorder. "The anecdotal evidence was just piling up that it was much more common than anyone cared to admit.Lanette Suarez writes at The University of Miami Law Review:
Students with disabilities, especially students of color with disabilities, are disproportionately subjected to restraints and seclusion, impeding their access to an inclusive education. Further, “[s]tudents with disabilities make up 19 percent of those who receive corporal punishment, yet just 14 percent of the nationwide student population.” According to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, students with disabilities are 12% of the student population, but 58% of those subjected to seclusion or involuntary confinement.Further, even though they constitute only 12% of
the student population across the United States, students with disabilities represent 75% of those who are subjected to physical restraints at school to immobilize them or reduce their ability to move freely.
Similarly, disabled African-American students represent 19% of students with isabilities, but 36% of the students who are restrained at school by mechanical restraints or equipment designed to restrict freedom of movement. These numbers show the significantly disparate use of excessive force, restraints, and punishment skewed toward
disabled children and disabled children of color in particular.
Significantly, these numbers may be inaccurate because of a fundamental problem: lack of reporting. In 2012, there were 163,000 instances where students were restrained (physically held down) according to federal data. Also, in 2012, students were placed
roughly 104,000 times in scream rooms and there were 7,600 reports of students being placed in mechanical restraints like handcuffs or straps. However, there is reason to believe even more cases exist especially for children with autism or those experiencing emotional and behavioral issues. These students are either too young, distressed, or too limited in their ability to communicate what goes on in school. Children with disabilities are especially vulnerable because they often have a history of behavioral problems, which may undermine their credibility when reporting abuse. In other situations, the child’s increased agitation can cause a “more forceful and longer application of restraint until the child succumbs and sometimes stops breathing.”Furthermore, many school systems fail to report all incidents to the federal government: “Fewer than one-third of the nation’s school districts reported using restraints or seclusions even once during the school year.” Thus, the number of students with disabilities that are subjected to restraints and seclusion as punishment could be significantly higher. Reporting the incidents could be a way to have the essential information to ascertain the problems and attempt to find a meaningful solution.