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Brockton, MA: Report shows 22% of special needs preK students were restrained

Feb 25, 2018, Bridgewater, MA, Wicked Local: 6 Brockton schools reported over 6 students restrained http://bridgewater.wickedlocal.com/news/20180225/6-brockton-schools-reported-over-6-students-restrained Districts were required to report cases of student restraint to the state for the first time last year as part of new rules meant to curb the practice. Massachusetts state law forbids physical restraint in public schools except in emergencies, saying it can be used only as a last resort and if a student’s behavior poses an immediate threat. BROCKTON – Two city middle schools, two elementary schools and two special-needs programs saw the highest rates in the district of students having to be restrained by staff in the last school year, according to state data. The since-shuttered Goddard Alternative School, an early childhood special education program whose students were moved last year to the Huntington School building, saw 11 students – 22 percent of the school’s total enrollment restrained at least once, according to the data, which was released by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in response to public records requests from The Enterprise and the Associated Press. The Gilmore Elementary School’s Early Childhood Center, which has been relocated to the Barrett Russell School building and children with and without disabilities, according to the district website, saw the next highest rate with nine students, or 3 percent of the center’s 288-student population, experiencing a restraint. The West Middle School had 10 students restrained, while eight North Middle School students were restrained. That’s about 1.5 percent of the total enrollment at both schools. The Arnone Elementary School saw nine student restraints – about 1 percent of the population – while the George School had six, representing less than 1 percent of its total enrollment. The Goddard, Gilmore and George Schools were the only schools to report injuries to students or staff during restraints – each saw three. … Districts were required to report cases to the state for the first time last year as part of new rules meant to curb the practice. Massachusetts state law forbids physical restraint in public schools except in emergencies, saying it can be used only as a last resort and if a student’s behavior poses an immediate threat. Rules that took effect in 2016 outlaw restraining devices, such as straps or belts, along with seclusion, the practice of confining students alone until they calm down. But the rules allow a variety of physical holds ranging from a bear hug to a restraint that’s used to pin a student face-down on the ground and has been blamed for asphyxiation deaths at some U.S. schools. … Statewide, public school officials reported having to physically restrain students more than 9,000 times last year, sparking outcry from some advocates who say the practice is dangerous, overused and underreported. Still, Brockton’s school fared far better than most school statewide – some logged more than 200. At the John J. Doran Community School, an elementary school in the Fall River district, students were restrained 253 times, leading to 19 injuries, the highest numbers in the state. More than three-quarters of the school’s 500 students come from low-income families, and nearly one-fourth have a disability, according to separate state data. The school’s principal, Eric Bradley, declined to comment. Some advocates said it’s alarming that some schools repeatedly restrained the same students. …. Students with disabilities have been found to face restraint at higher rates than their peers, which some advocates say amounts to discrimination. The U.S. Education Department reported in 2016 that students with disabilities made up 12 percent of all students enrolled at public schools, but 67 percent of those subjected to restraint or seclusion. In Massachusetts, schools that frequently used restraint had varying populations of students with disabilities. The Disability Law Center, a Massachusetts advocacy group, said the number of cases and injuries are “extremely disturbing.” At the William R. Peck School in Holyoke, which reported 180 restraint cases, nearly a third of the students have disabilities, well above the statewide total of 17 percent. By contrast, the Mary Fonseca Elementary School in Fall River, which logged 244 cases, reports that 12 percent of its students have disabilities. …