Thursday, September 20, 2012

Does your state allow seclusion and restraints in schools

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to say that school teachers are abusive - this is meant to show that parents do not always know what is happening to their children in schools. It happens in public and private schools - it happens in inner cities, it happens in suburbia... Laws are not consistent and parents should at least be aware of what is required and what may be happening in their child's school.

The Autism National Committee put together a publication on safe schools that focuses on the reality of seclusion. While a padded room may be better than an emptied out closet, less restrictive options aren't necessarily required by law and it doesn't appear in the Arizona-Deer Valley school district case that there is anything in place to ensure that the use of the restraints are appropriate and necessary. The Autism national committee's report is pretty eye opening.

For example:
- Alaska, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New York, Washington allow restraints for "educational disruption" among other things. So, a kid who gets excited and disrupts the class could legally be restrained?

Luckily if you're in Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Texas seclusion is illegal. A child must be able to leave a room (imagine if there were say a fire and the child was locked in alone?!)

Only Alaska, Arizona, Delaware,  Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey,  New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia require that the secluded child have access to staff... to say, let them know they're "calm enough" or say have to go to the bathroom. But really, take a look at that report. It is eye opening. One would think that say access to food or water or ventilation or lighting would be required, but things like that aren't necessarily guaranteed.

I understand that schools are not psych wards and teachers aren't trained, nor should they be expected to, work with children who need psychological help to remain in a classroom. A public report by American Association of School Administrators indicates that seclusion and restraints allow children to stay in public schools. But, kids need protection. From the AASA report:

In early 2012, AASA conducted a randomized survey of school administrators across the U.S. on how often seclusion and restraint was used in their school districts and whether school personnel  were injured as a result of working with students who needed to be secluded or restrained. The  results of our survey are as follows:
  • 10 percent of respondents used seclusion and restraint more than 5% of the time in a single school year. 
  • 97 percent of respondents said that staff who perform seclusion and restraint are either trained or certified in how to perform safe and appropriate seclusion and restraint. 
  • 95 percent of school personnel who perform seclusion and restraint are trained in prevention and conflict de-escalation or positive behavioral interventions and supports.
  • 25 percent of school districts reported that at least 20 times in the last school year, an administrator, teacher, paraprofessional, aide or other school professional trained in proper 
  • seclusion and restraint techniques has been physically threatened or attacked by a student. 30 percent of school districts responded that within the last five years, there have been at 
  • least five hospitalizations of school staff due to unanticipated behavioral outbursts by students.
Are the procedures really the least restrictive? Are they only used in instances of extreme violence?  Is the use of restraints or seclusion really de-escalating dangerous situations? In my days working direct care in mental health, the use of restrains and seclusion were very few and it was told to us again and again to use the LEAST restrictive procedure to assist in a situation where a client needed de-escalation. Yes, there were other people in the group homes who had their own reasons for being in a the homes, and they needed to be protected (and often prevented from also needing assistance in keeping calm in the situation). But the idea was that we had to find ways to prevent issues and, even in the middle of a major violent break down, we had to remember that restraints were to be used sparingly.

According to a US Dept of Education chart (found here) the following states do not have  guidance/regulation on the use of seclusion and restraints:

- Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky (has recommended best practices), Louisiana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, West Virginia (for pre-k students they have a policy) (*In honesty, that report might be out of date, and I did just read through the report some-what quickly, so read it for yourself. CTRL+F your state!)

I highly recommend all parents read to see what is even regulated in your state. Is having no law bad? I'm not one for high government regulation, but if it isn't against the law to restrain a child because of blowing bubbles in their milk (happened in Wisconsin), or placing a child in a room with no light... and then there isn't even a law that says you, as a parent, has to be notified... Where do we stand?

What about for kids? As a working parent, I know that if my child was not able to handle a day in school, I would have to be called to help take care of my kid. Even a stay-at-home parent would have to do juggling if a child was sent home instead of placed in seclusion or otherwise restrained. In my situation, if my child "needed" seclusion, I may even have to consider ways to ensure my child received an education, even if it meant modifying my life (say home schooling and working nights), or otherwise. I'm not saying all families could or should change their lives if a child isn't behaving or enjoying school. Nor is it always possible. In the AZ case brought to light, it appears that a hole-filled procedure wasn't followed, so how do we know this padded room is being used sparingly or even as a least restrictive option for kids who need help? Without a full story how can a family put their child into this situation?

Now remember that report isn't just about elementary schools, so a 17 year old would likely be pretty powerful... but a 7 year old? Is it necessary to have such extreme options for elementary students? Should a psychologist be on staff in locations where there are padded rooms? What are your thoughts?

Real Life Attachment Parenting: A padded room too much for your elementary school student?

1 comment:

Amanda McMahon said...

Cross posted comment:

Here is why regulation is needed and why some states have implemented regulations. This girl DIED during restraint for blowing bubbles in her milk

As sad as it is for a child who cannot self control to be in a situation where restraints or isolation is "needed" - regulation is necessary to prevent abuse.