Too Hard to Handle

By Rachel Gang — July 16, 2008 1 min read
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With the number of special education students in public schools higher than ever, totaling 600,000 students in New York City alone, many parents worry that school staff members may not be properly trained to handle behavior problems, reports The New York Times. Dr. John Miller, father of a 12 year-old boy who has Asperger’s syndrome, said that teachers restrained his son for 20 minutes on at least one occasion, and the boy often refused to go to school because “he thought the school was trying to kill him.” In response to the alleged mishandled restraint, the Millers are suing the district for the cost of therapy.

The Millers’ case points to a general concern for teachers and parents of children with developmental and psychiatric problems over when and under what circumstances should physical restraint and seclusion be used. Carrying out the appropriate course of discipline can be quite the challenge for the classroom teacher, who is responsible for the safety of all 30 children, says Patti Ralabate, a special education expert at the National Education Association.

While federal law requires that schools develop individual behavioral plans for each student, no standards exist to decide when physical restraint and seclusion is appropriate. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, recently adopted tighter restraining standards, while California, Iowa, and New York are in the process of doing the same.

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