The Line on Restraints

By Christina A. Samuels — July 15, 2008 1 min read
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The New York Times has published a compelling article about the use, and misuse, of restraints with students who have behavior disorders.

In dozens of interviews, parents, special education experts and lawyers who work to protect disabled people said they now regularly heard of cases of abuse in public schools — up to one or two a week surface on some parent e-mail lists — much more often than a decade ago. “In all the years I went to school, I never, ever saw or heard of anything like the horrific stories about restraint that we see just about every day now,” said Alison Tepper Singer, executive vice president of Autism Speaks, a charity dedicated to curing the disorder. The issue is politically sensitive at a time when schools have done a lot to accommodate students with special needs, and some have questioned whether mainstreaming has gone too far. “Some parent organizations, they’re so grateful to the schools that their kids have been mainstreamed that they don’t want to risk really pushing for change,” said Dee Alpert, an advocate in New York who reports on the issue in the online journal specialeducationmuckraker.com.

Are schools adopting some of the same institutional policies that parents committed to mainstreaming hoped to avoid? What stands out for me in this article is how little oversight there seems to be on restraining techniques. If school personnel are using the same techniques as workers in psychiatric hospitals, someone should be paying just as much attention to this.

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