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Arne Duncan on Seclusion and Restraints

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote a letter to state schools chiefs dated July 31, asking them to review their current policies on restraint and seclusion.

Duncan's comments on this issue come in the way of a May hearing on restraints and seclusion that was held before the House education committee. He also uses the letter to give a pat on the back to Illinois:

My home State of Illinois has what I believe to be one good approach, including both a strong focus upon Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) as well as State regulations that limit the use of seclusion and restraint under most circumstances.

...The State’s requirements, which I found to be extremely helpful as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, were described in testimony at the hearing. Illinois prohibits the use of seclusion or restraint for the purpose of punishment or exclusion, and allows trained staff to restrain students only in narrow circumstances.

Duncan isn't giving states too much time to make changes to policies, if they're needed:

I have asked Fran Walter of our Office of Elementary and Secondary Education to work with staff from our regional Comprehensive Centers to contact your office by August 15, to discuss the status of your State’s efforts with regard to limiting the use of seclusion and restraint to protect our students. During this contact, we expect to discuss relevant State laws, regulations, policies, and guidance that affect the use of seclusion and restraint, and any plans for further development or revisions.

I wonder if any changes will be made in California or Texas, two states singled out for particular attention in a recent federal report that examined cases of restraint and seclusion nationwide.


(Hat-tip to the Justice for All blog and the EBD blog)

4 Comments

Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio just signed a ban on the face-down prone restraint--that's the good news. Bad news is that this is in response to a young lady who died when held in such a restraint in Ohio.

Rep. George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, had this to say about Sec. Duncan's actions:

“Secretary Duncan is committed to ensuring all children, in every single school in this country, is safe and protected,” said Miller, who is working to develop legislation that would address seclusion and restraint in U.S. schools. “We need to do everything we can to protect schoolchildren from abusive, torturous, and – in some cases – deadly uses of seclusion and restraint and to stop these horrific abuses from going unchecked."
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More here - http://edlabor.house.gov/newsroom/2009/08/secretary-duncan-takes-critica.shtml

As a disability advocate,I believe students with disabilities need to be in a safe,school environment. All states need to have a standardized system involving restraint and seclusion. The most important thing is that teachers and classroom staff be trained in proper restraints and seclusion methods. This is a must if we want students with disabilities to be safe and protected. That must be a part of state standards.

As a special education teacher and parent, I also feel that students have a right to be in a safe school environment. Parents send their child to school expecting that he or she will be kept safe. No child should be put into a restraint or secluded unless there is a behavior intervention plan written. Everyone that has the authority to put a student in a hold should have the proper training before implementing the restraint. I also think if possible, that another adult should be present when a restraint is used or when the student is secluded.

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