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HuffPo: Restraint and seclusion horror stories in U.S. schools

Sept 5, 2017, Huff Post: Schools, Please Stop Locking Kids in Closets http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/schools-please-stop-locking-kids-in-closets_us_59aea949e4b0bef3378cdb35 A goal for the new school year: Eliminate Restraint and Seclusion Veteran parents know that the best way to manage their children’s tantrums and emotional outbursts is to try to prevent them in the first place. Understanding what is likely to trigger a meltdown and watching for the signs of distress in children prone to this behavior can help to avoid the behavior much of the time. Unfortunately, school personnel may miss a child’s pending outburst because they haven’t been looking, don’t know what is likely to upset a student, or wait too long to intervene. Once the student is out of control, the go to options in many cases are placing the child in an isolation room or restraining the child. At the end of last school year, I shared the story of a first grader in my community who was locked in a bare, cinder block closet, supposedly to give her the opportunity to calm down and behave appropriately. She was a member of a special education classroom, but apparently something happened when she was mainstreamed for gym class. Picturing this little girl, who weighed around 50 pounds and was a bit over three feet tall, crying hysterically for 45 minutes in what was euphemistically called the “Calm Down Room” was heart breaking. The closet had a panel window that permitted an adult to look in, but the window was blocked by taped-on paper from the floor to four feet from the ground and also at the top, so the child could not look out. This also made the closet rather dark. The child was repeatedly slapping the window with her hands but was not tall enough to see anything. ... During the 2014-15 school year, 70,000 special education students were secluded or restrained. That’s one out of every 100 children receiving special education services. According to Wrightslaw, educational staff members often interpret a child who has limited speech attempting to communicate how she feels as “bad behavior.” The child becomes frustrated and the behavior escalates, often to the point where the child is totally out of control.... Seclusion and restraint hurt children physically as well as psychologically. Carson Luke, who has autism, was ten the day he was badly injured at his Virginia school. Because Carson became upset, threw his shoe, and escalated his behavior to attack a teacher, five adults dragged him to a seclusion room and slammed the metal door on his hand. His mother arrived to find her child with a broken bone protruding from his hand. In 2015, Virginia passed a bill requiring state limits on how public schools can restrain or isolate students. Many states, however, have no regulations in place.

In Wheaton, Minnesota in 2012, an 8-year-old boy with autism was handcuffed to a chair, his arms and legs bound, with a piece of cloth tied over his face. His offense was likely that he hated to stop an activity he was enjoying to move on to the next scheduled activity. ...

In Iowa an 8-year-old girl with autism and other disabilities was placed in a converted storage area under a staircase 100 times over a four month period to calm her aggression.


In a Louisiana charter school, a 7-year-old buy with PTSD and ADHD was locked in the principal’s closet and then taken away in handcuffs by police who used excessive force.


In Minnesota, an 8-year-old girl with communication, attention, and hyperactivity issues was secluded 44 times against the objections of an independent behavioral consultant and the child’s mother.


In North Carolina, a 5-year-old girl was strapped to a chair repeatedly, even when she was not being aggressive.

In all of these and many more examples, the children were unable to report how they were being treated at school. In many cases, parents were not notified. ...