Restraint and seclusion rampant in schools

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Connecticut schools used restraint and seclusion procedures against students with disabilities more than 18,000 times in 2009, according to an article by the online journalism outfit Connecticut Health Investigative Team.

The data came through a Freedom of Information Act request through the Connecticut Department of Education. Connecticut is one of two states, along with California, that requires schools to report restraint and seclusion incidents to the state.

The schools reported 8,511 cases of students being restrained and 9,823 cases of students being secluded. The seclusion figures only refer to cases where there are “emergency seclusions” as opposed to students being secluded for behavioral problems.

In one of the more publicized incidents, a six-year old boy weighing about about 48 pounds was forcibly restrained by five adults and was regularly locked in a windowless room measuring four by six feet. The student’s mother is suing the school district.

Unlike with hospitals and residential facilities, there is no federal law prohibiting methods of restraint and seclusion, though legislation passed in the U.S. House of Representatives only to be stalled in the U.S. Senate this fall.

Parents were notified in 85.1 percent of the cases, as required by a 2007 state law. However, the number came as shocking to even many local advocacy organizations.

This is really pretty disturbing,” said Alicia Woodsby, public policy director for the National Alliance for Mental Illness in Connecticut, in the article. “The number of incidents far exceeds what her organization suspected and “illustrates why we need transparency on this and better reporting of it.”

California reported about 21,000 “behavior emergencies” in 2009 in its public and nonpublic schools.