The practice of secluding or restraining children when they get agitated has long been a controversial practice in public schools. Now, new data show that it’s more common than previously understood, happening at least 267,000 times in a recent school year.
NPR worked with reporters from the investigative journalism group ProPublica, who compiled data from the U.S. Department of Education to come up with one of the clearest looks at the practice of seclusion and restraint.
In most cases, the practice is used with students with disabilities — usually with those who have autism or are labeled emotionally disturbed. Sometimes the students will get upset; they might even get violent. To calm or control them, teachers and aides might isolate them in a separate room, which is a practice known as seclusion. Or they might restrain them by holding or hugging them, or pinning them to the ground, or by using mechanical restraints, such as a belt or even handcuffs.
An analysis by ProPublica and NPR of data for the 2011-2012 school year of school discipline practices from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection shows:
- Restraint and seclusion were used at least 267,000 times nationwide. That includes 163,000 instances in which students were restrained. Mechanical restraints were used 7,600 of those times.
- Schools reported that they placed children in seclusion rooms about 104,000 times.
- In 75 percent of the cases, it was kids with disabilities who were restrained or secluded.
This was the first time that federal officials required schools to report their use of seclusion and restraint. But the true numbers are almost certainly higher: Many of the nation’s largest school districts reported no use of seclusion or restraint. Federal officials say it’s unclear whether those districts don’t use either technique or if they simply didn’t report cases.
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Access Ministry is the “disability ministry” of McLean Bible Church. While the word “disability” is used, we prefer to think of Access as a ministry of “possibilities” not defined by what can’t be done but rather by what all individuals regardless of ability level can achieve in God’s house. We believe in Access to God for all His people and celebrate our uniqueness and differences. It is our hope to develop all people into fully-devoted followers of Christ, integrated into the church.
Each school year, beginning in September, Access sponsors monthly lectures focusing on disability issues by experts from the Washington, DC, area. These workshops are designed for parents, families, individuals and professionals in the disability community and are open to the public free of charge. RSVP is requested, but not required. Access encourages you to invite a friend that may also want to hear these incredible speakers.
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[from their site] “Our Worldwide Campaign to End the Institutionalization of Children seeks to draw attention to, and end, the pervasive and abusive practice of institutionalizing children with disabilities.
Disability Rights International was established in 1993 by attorney Eric Rosenthal. Based in Washington DC, Disability Rights International documents human rights abuses, publishes reports on human rights enforcement, and promotes international oversight of the rights of people with mental disabilities.
Children are the most vulnerable members of any society. Founded by DRI President Laurie Ahern, our Worldwide Campaign to End Institutionalization of Children fights to protect children suffering today and seeks to stop the next generation of children with disabilities from ever being locked away and forgotten.
Drawing on the skills and experience of attorneys, mental health professionals, human rights advocates, people with mental disabilities and their family members, Disability Rights International trains and supports advocates seeking legal and service system reform and assists governments in developing laws and policies to promote community integration and human rights enforcement for people with mental disabilities.
The organization is forging new alliances throughout the world to challenge the discrimination and abuse faced by people with mental disabilities, as well as working with locally based advocates to create new advocacy projects and to promote citizen participation and human rights for children and adults.”
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