Waterbury, VT: 281 restraints at elem school; call for reform

July 21, 2022, VTDigger: Restraint and seclusion in Waterbury school

Letter to the editor: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has emphasized that the use of restraint and seclusion is a result of treatment failure.

The 281 restraints at Brookside Primary School in Waterbury is a very strong indication that something is not working. Brookside Primary needs to stop doing what is not working.
During my time as the Brookside Primary behavior support educator, I often heard that the school is “high needs.” The high needs was a reference to a high number of students who need a high level of specialized services.

The idea that Brookside Primary has higher needs than other schools in Vermont is evidence of irrational thinking used to justify the high frequency of physical restraints. The blame should not be placed on students with high needs; the blame lies squarely on the administration and the contracted service providers they hire for not fixing systemic treatment failures.

Brookside Primary certainly does have high needs, but it is a high need for a paradigm shift amongst the administrators. Brookside Primary has a high need for trauma-informed practices that align with current neuroscience and a high need for more thorough deescalation training.

The administration should invest in education and training opportunities that are proven to help bring emotional crises to an end peacefully without violence. The administration should invest in training opportunities that are proven to help prevent these crises from occuring in the first place. There are better ways.

Brian Dalla Mura

Duxbury Former educator and school board member in the Harwood Union school district