Is Restraining Children in School Unethical?

Is Restraining Children in School Unethical?

When we drop off our kids at school, we assume they are in a safe environment. While nearly every institution has a code regarding seclusions and restraints, most parents don’t stop to think such tactics will be used on their children.

Civil rights activists and disability advocates are pushing for the federal government to take action to stop seclusion and restraints in schools. According to a recent Education Department report, nearly 70 percent of all students put in seclusion and restraints have disabilities.

Currently, no federal standards regulate the use of restraints in schools. While used as a last resort according to school officials, disability advocates are concerned that the schools are too loose with their interpretation of “last resort” and that abuses occur. They want the federal government to step in to help limit the practice of seclusion and restraint.

In 2009, investigators found several cases of abuse and even death as a result of these methods. One case went so far as to expose instances of preschool-age children being duct-taped to chairs. Another mother found her boy with autism inside a canvas duffel bag in the school hallway. Connecticut is taking steps to reduce the amount of seclusion and restraint by requiring schools to document how often children with disabilities are isolated.

In the 2009-2010 school year, tens of thousands of cases of seclusion were reported. Nearly 85 percent of cases were self-reported by schools based on surveys. Disability advocates suggest this method of reporting is inaccurate and that many more cases likely exist; critics suggest over-reporting due to the fact the schools did not know how to respond to the first-time survey.

Special educators are taught only to use seclusion and restraint when there is a threat of someone being hurt. However, the frequency of these instances suggests that restraint is being used more often than in emergency situations. Not all schools offer proper training, and some educators are stuck in the position of doing what they can in the moment to prevent chaos in the classroom and protect the children. The awareness of this issue will hopefully create new systems, so that educators are given the proper instruction and can handle dangerous and emergency situations properly. Seclusion and restraint should be used minimally, and reports from the schools should highlight problem areas to work towards limiting how often seclusion and restraint is used.


CBS News: Activists seek to curtail restraining students

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