The Dangers of Restraining and Secluding Students

By Elizabeth Rich — May 19, 2009 1 min read
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A study released today by the Government Accountability Office finds that the pervasive use of violent restraining and secluding techniques by teachers with students who have special needs has led to hundreds of deaths and injuries of American school children in the last twenty years, according to Coinciding with the report’s release is a hearing today at the U.S. House Committee of Education and Labor to determine if the seclusion and restraint of students should be against federal law.

Committee chairman Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., called the report “alarming” and “eye opening,” in his prepared remarks, quoted by “Recent news reports document appalling stories of teachers tying children to chairs, taping their mouths shut, using handcuffs, denying them food, fracturing bones, locking them in small dark spaces, and sitting on them until they turn blue,” said Miller.

One of those victims was Cedric, a 14-year-old foster child from Texas who had been abused by his biological family. In 2002, after Cedric tried to leave his 8th grade classroom and then refused to sit down, his six-foot tall, 200-pound teacher, as described by his foster mother Toni Price, restrained him. “Cedric struggled as he was being held in his chair, so the teacher put him in a face down, or in a prone restraint, and sat on him,” Price explained. “He struggled and said repeatedly, ‘I can’t breathe.’ ‘If you can speak, you can breathe,’ she snapped at him.” Paramedics were called to the school and pronounced Cedric dead.

Not everyone agrees that restraint and seclusion of school children should be banned. Glenn Koocher, the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, believes “teachers need to have the ability under clearly outlined protocol to restrain children.” As to the risk of abuse, Koocher told, it’s “a reasonable risk we have to take.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.