A recent federal report outlined cases of abusive restraints and seclusion being used on students with disabilities, prompting U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to say that he wanted to hear from state schools chiefs on how they planned to ensure student safety.
The May 19 report from the Government Accountability Office was requested by U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. The report noted there were hundreds of cases of alleged abuse over the past 20 years, yet there are no federal policies on the use of such techniques and no agency that collects information on all the cases.
A handful of states keep their own statistics on how often restraints and seclusion are used on students. According to the report, from September 2007 to June 2008, Texas officials said they restrained 4,202 students 18,741 times. During the same period, California officials said they used restraints, seclusion, or emergency interventions 14,354 times on an unspecified number of students. The GAO also reported on 10 cases of seclusion and restraint, four of which resulted in death.
The day after the report’s release, members of the House education committee met with Mr. Duncan, who expressed “grave concern” about the findings.
“Children’s safety has to be our number one concern, before we think about educating them or doing other things,” Mr. Duncan told the committee.
Representatives from 40 advocacy organizations also brought up the issue of seclusion and restraints in a May 26 meeting at the White House. They urged the White House to consider federal action to prohibit such techniques from being used in schools as discipline.
A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2009 edition of Education Week