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California: "Prone restraints regularly used ...on students with special needs"

Dec 15, 2019, Denton (CA) Daily: California teachers can pin students face down. Does the danger outweigh the benefit? It’s a scenario that sounds more likely in jails than schools: Arms pulled behind their back, a person is forced into a “prone restraint,” pinned face down on the floor with limbs held immobile by at least two people. But prone restraints are regularly used in California schools, often on students with special needs such as those on the autism spectrum — and at a higher rate on black students, an analysis of federal data by The Sacramento Bee found. Next month, California state regulations on the use of prone restraints on students will change, limiting them to emergency situations. Current law allows them to be used too often as punishments or as a behavior modifier on hard-to-handle kids, critics said. Even with the new law, disability rights advocates and some parents worry that the intensely physical interventions will continue to be used often, and present the possibility of harm to kids. Some would like to see them banned in schools altogether. The controversy over prone restraints drew attention last month when a thirteen-year-old boy with autism, Max Benson, died after being held in the position at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills. Since then, more than 20 parents have pulled their children from the private school, which multiple school districts in the region contract with to provide services to special education students, according to officials…. Restraints are legal in both public and non-public schools in California, and federal laws rely on a complicated patchwork of state laws to ensure that students’ rights and safety are protected during their use. Current California law permits use of restraint in non-emergencies and only applies to students in special education…. More than 122,000 students— or one percent of the nation’s student population — were physically restrained or secluded at school in 2015-2016, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Many of those incidents were done in non-emergency situations, according to Disability Rights California, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Sacramento. Only 28 states have laws providing strict protections against restraint and seclusion for all children; 38 states have broader regulations for children with disabilities, according to an autism advocate and parent of a child with autism. About 76 percent of students physically or mechanically restrained at California schools in 2015-16 were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights…. Lack of training Lee and others also said teachers and staff need more training in how to properly do restraint holds. Current law does not mandate that school staff be certified in how to do the holds safely prior to using them, according to the DOE, and the new law makes no mention of training. Many California schools use independent trainers to teach staff — but will send only a few staff members to the classes. Those staff members in turn train others at the school, said Diana Berkheimer, a school safety instructor with Professional Assault Crisis Training, which conducts de-escalation and restraint courses. …


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