Saturday, July 23, 2011

We Need A Better Approach

I’ve written several times in the past on my personal blog about the user of restraints in the school setting.  I believed then and I believe now that restraints should not be necessary and not used. I understand the rationale I hear from school staff that they are only restraining to protect the child in the middle of a meltdown as well as the other children in the classroom or school. However, my belief is that were proper supports in place prior to the meltdown, perhaps the meltdown would not have happened at all. I am not in a classroom and I do not have a group of 20 or more students, some of whom may have disabilities which may result in outbursts of anger and aggression. But, I am the parent of such a child, and I have learned over the nine years that I have parented her that there are other, better ways to diffuse a situation.

Several years ago, an article appeared in the  New York Times titled, Calm Down or Else. The author of the article describes several situations in a school classroom in which physical restraints were used. While on the surface, some of the restraints may have seemed appropriate, others described were obviously mishandled situations. The author poses the question “Have the incidents of restraint being used increased because more and more children with disabilities are being mainstreamed?” Again that supposition screams out to me that the proper supports are not in place. Asking a general education teacher who has not been trained in special education services to anticipate issues encountered by a child with an emotional disability is not going to work. Train that general education teacher – provide appropriate special education support in the general education classroom – teach everyone to notice the triggers that may set a meltdown in motion – in other words, know your students, anticipate their needs, and always be aware of the nuances of behavior occurring in the classroom.

The author ends his article with the concerns that unless schools adopt policies and standards, and unless those things are clearly communicated to parents and school staff, abuses and even deaths from improperly applied restraints will continue. And, as one of the experts cited in the article says, some parents want their child restrained and some are vehemently opposed, further complicating the jobs of those professionals who are caught in the middle of the fray.

I believe it is time for a national look at this issue, and while that is happening, I believe school systems need to adopt some transitional policies and standards to ensure the safety and RESPECT of each and every student in their classrooms. And just for the record, I DO NOT WANT ANY OF MY CHILDREN RESTRAINED.

**Special Note**
One exception to my stand on never restraining a child in a school is that situation where a child has brought a weapon to school. At least in my school district, all schools have a resource (police) officer assigned to the school. That officer is trained to handle weapon related situations, regardless of the age of the offender and should be the first to respond. However, if the situation is such that a teacher must act to protect others from the actions of a student with a weapon, I certainly pray that teacher has been trained and is capable of subduing the child who has the weapon.


  1. Thanks for writing on this important topic, Deborah.
    After an incident a couple of years ago, I educated myself on the laws in my state regarding restraint and found that any incident of restraint with a child who has an IEP (even if approved ahead of time in the IEP) requires a report to the state and a safe crisis meeting to be held. We had such a meeting and developed a safe crisis plan detailed what steps would be taken if there was an escalation with my son, including the fact that restraining him was NOT one of those steps.
    If things get really bad, they do a room clear until he has calmed down enough to voluntarily go with a staff member to another location to finish calming down. Even if we did allow restraint, it would be only be what was specified in the IEP and by staff who had been fully trained and certified. I think parents need to be aware that even if they agree with it, there are still rules and procedures that must be followed both before and after every use of a restraint.