COLUMBUS – A new report says better enforcement is needed on the use of seclusion and restraint in schools.
The recommendations in the research from Disability Rights Ohio highlight data in a 2015 report which found wide gaps in enforcement of a rule restricting the use of the practices.
Kristin Hildebrant, senior attorney with the organization, says the Ohio Department of Education should review data on restraint and seclusion already provided by districts.
“It’s hit or miss what type of data is provided to the Department of Education,” she says. “And there’s no comprehensive ongoing method of oversight from the Department of Education to school districts.”
She adds the department also needs effective investigation for violations of the rule. When secluded, a child is a room they cannot leave, sometimes with a locked door. Restraint can include straps that limit movement of a child’s head, body or limbs.
Both practices are used as a last resort in managing behaviors that cause a danger to the child or others.
According to the findings, there were thousands of incidents of restraint and seclusion reported in the 2014-2015 school year, which disproportionately involved children with disabilities and children of color. And Hildebrant says the practices are especially harmful for kids with a history of trauma, who typically need extra supports in the classroom.
“When a child is restrained or secluded during some portion of the day they are traumatized to the point where that whole day is pretty much lost,” Hildebrant says. “It’s very difficult for them to recover from that and get back to the business of learning so these kids are missing out on a lot of services.”
Hildebrant says the Department of Education is working on training districts on positive behavior interventions, but says there are often not enough resources and supports needed for it to be effective on a school-wide basis.
“It really requires the establishment of a positive school culture,” she says. “And it really needs to be something that everyone in the school district embraces and it can be a difficult thing to do if a district lacks the resources and the will to do it.”
A spokeswoman said the department is committed to helping districts understand reporting requirements and is open to future conversations about improving the rule.