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School & District Management

Restraint and Seclusion Rates Remain Relatively Steady Despite Policy Changes

By Christina A. Samuels — November 14, 2014 1 min read

Nearly half of the states have updated their policies on restraint and seclusion as disciplinary methods between the two most recent data collections conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights. But the use of restraint or seclusion has remained “relatively consistent,” according to a report from researchers based at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham.

In the report, released Oct. 28, researchers compared data taken from the 2009-10 Civil Rights Data Collection, which compiled data from nearly 7,000 school districts, to the 2011-12 Civil Rights Data Collection, which gathered information from all of the nation’s 16,500 districts.

The researchers focused on instances of restraint and seclusion of students with disabilities, because students in that category are subject to those disciplinary methods at considerably higher rates than their typically developing peers.

For the 2009-10 collection, about 59 percent of districts reported no instances of restraint, and about 82.5 percent of schools reported no instances of seclusion. In 2011-12, 69 percent reported no instances of restraint, and 87 percent reported no instances of seclusion.

In 2009-10, the researchers found that low-poverty, low-diversity districts used restraint more than twice as often as districts with high rates of poverty and diversity. But for the latest data collection, while more affluent districts still used restraint more often than the poorer districts, the difference between the two was not as pronounced.

While states vary in their use of restraint and seclusion, there also are dramatic differences in how often restraint and seclusion is used among districts located in the same state. Many states have districts that restrain or seclude frequently, as well as districts that have reported no use of those practices.

“These findings suggest that local policy decisions and other factors related to school culture, rather than state policy, seem to be the greatest determinants of restraint and seclusion rates,” the researchers concluded.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.