While I was away, the Government Accountability Office released its report (pdf) on restraints and seclusion used on students. What was noteworthy to me was what how much the government does not know: There are no federal policies on the use of such techniques, and there is not one entity that collects information on all of these cases, though the GAO found hundreds of cases of alleged abuse over the past 20 years.
Though there’s no nationwide recordkeeping, a handful of states keep their own statistics on how often restraints and seclusion were used on students. According to the GAO report, from September 2007 to June 2008, Texas officials said they restrained 4,202 students 18,741 times. During the same time period, California officials said they used restraints, seclusion, or emergency interventions 14,354 times on an unspecified number of students.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also made a statement before the House Education and Labor Committee, after the GAO report was released:
The attention on restraint and seclusion may leave some educators wondering what they can do to work with children with severe behavior problems.The blog Disability Scoop has a couple of useful entries on how to address problem behaviors in children, both here and here.
Written by Deborah Lipsky, a counselor who also has autism, they offer some insights in dealing with challenging problems, though it’s clear to me that children with entrenched behavior problems are not going to be “fixed” overnight. But restraining 4,200 children more than 18,000 times—which indicates that at least some children are being restrained again and again—doesn’t seem to be fixing any problems, either.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.