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Education Week: U.S. House committee hears about "restraint/seclusion" in schools

Feb 27, 2019, Education Week: 'It's Barbaric.' Lawmakers Probe Restraint and Seclusion Ahead of Legislation\ Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle spent a House hearing Wednesday exploring how prevalent restraint and seclusion is in schools, alternatives to those practices, and the proper role of the federal government regarding the issue. The House education subcommittee hearing Wednesday, which focused on the "inappropriate use" of restraint and seclusion and highlighted testimony from a teacher and a parent, as well as a representative from the Government Accountability Office and a university professor. There was a bigger context for the hearing: Democrats plan to introduce legislation next month that would ban public schools from placing students in isolation or otherwise secluding students, and place major restrictions on when students can be physically restrained. (The bill's provisions would in fact extend to all schools receiving federal funds; Democrats previously introduced this legislation toward the end of the last Congress.) However, some educators are not enthusiastic about having the practices banned or severely restricted, and argue that they must prioritize creating safe learning environments and deal with potentially dangerous situations quickly…. Nationwide, 61,000 students, roughly 0.1 percent of K-12 public school students, were physically restrained in the 2013-14 school year, according to the Civil Rights Data Collection for that year. However, Jacqueline Nowicki, the director of education, workforce, and income security at the Government Accountability Office who has studied restraint and seclusion, told lawmakers Wednesday that while 12 percent of students have disabiliites, those students represent 75 percent of all students who were restrained and close to 60 percent of students who were secluded. Allison Sutton, a Kansas teacher, presented lawmakers with a before-and-after picture of her classroom. Sutton said that as a special education teacher, she had not received training and was unprepared for disruptive classroom situations. She said previously, she restrained and secluded students at a high rate; at one time the situation escalated so much that one student gave her a concussion. After receiving crisis training and de-escalation techniques, Sutton said, her use of those methods dropped off dramatically. "Everyone in my classroom can breathe a little easier now," she said. Democrats expressed repugnance at the impact of the practice. For example, Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., highlighted the story of Andrew McClain, an 11-year-old boy who died by suffocation after he was taken to a "time-out" room at a psychiatric hospital in Connecticut. "It's barbaric to confine students alone in locked rooms or to use abusive methods to restrain little children," Shalala said. "Treating school kids in this way should not be tolerated in this country, period." …


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