The Arc Stands Up For Safety of Kids with Disabilities in the Classroom

Questions Report that Promotes Restraint and Seclusion

Washington, DC – In a letter to U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, The Arc expressed serious concerns about a recent report from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) that promotes the use of restraint and seclusion as tools to protect students and school personnel. The Arc supports the Keeping All Students Safe Act, introduced by Senator Harkin and Representative George Miller (D-CA), to allow the use of physical restraint only when someone is in danger of being harmed, while ensuring that personnel receive proper training, that parents are aware of any restraint or seclusion used with their children and that the most dangerous types of restraint and seclusion are eliminated.

The AASA report is in stark contrast to reports from the Government Accountability Office and the National Disability Rights Network that document that children are injured, traumatized and even killed as a result of restraint and seclusion in schools and that the use of these dangerous techniques is widespread. The AASA report relies on a survey of an unknown number of AASA’s members, and portrays restraint and seclusion as a tool to be relied on by educators. The Arc believes that the harm suffered by students through the use of dangerous restraint and seclusion practices in our nation’s schools is unacceptable. Numerous alternatives to restraint and seclusion exist, including positive behavioral interventions and supports and other methods for preventing and stopping problem behaviors.

The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education just released data from the 2009-10 school year that shows that tens of thousands of school-aged children were secluded or restrained. The Department’s data are from 72,000 schools that educate 85 percent of the nation’s students. It shows that 70 percent of students subjected to the techniques have disabilities. There are no current federal standards on the use of the techniques in schools.

“This data should be a wakeup call to educators across the country – the use of restraint and seclusion is a national problem that disproportionately impacts students with disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc. “There are positive ways to manage behavior problems and school personnel need training in those methods.”

Students are not the only ones being hurt when restraint and seclusion are used. School staff sometimes is hurt when they use the practices, resulting in staff taking sick leave or even retiring from teaching.

“The Arc is concerned with the safety of students as well as school personnel and we support national standards that help prevent dangerous behavior problems and promote a positive and safe school climate,” commented Berns.

The Arc urges Congress to act quickly to protect all students in all schools, and pass the Keeping All Students Safe Act immediately.