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Transcript: Should Public Schools be Free to Pin Down Students?

Icon by Luis Prado from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0)

Should teachers be allowed to forcibly restrain students or hold them in rooms against their will even in cases where there’s no emergency? What are the best practices for handling uncooperative students, especially those with disabilities?

Our recent investigation on the widespread use of restraints and so-called seclusions of kids in public schools has raised questions about the dangers of the tactics, and whether they’re being overused. As Heather Vogell reports:

School superintendents who defend the practices say they are needed to protect teachers and children when students grow so agitated that their behavior turns dangerous. They argue that if educators don't have the freedom to restrain and isolate children as they see fit, they will be forced to send more students to restrictive settings such as residential institutions…

Most critics of restraints agree they are sometimes unavoidable. But they say schools too often fail to try alternatives for calming students and use the tactics for the wrong reasons—because children failed to follow directions, for instance, or had tantrums. Indeed, in a recent survey, nearly 1 in 5 school district leaders approved of using restraints or seclusion as punishment.

Following is a transcript of our live discussion with ProPublica reporter Heather VogellHeather Luke, whose autistic son Carson was injured when staff members crushed his hand in a door as they tried to seclude him, and Cyndi Pitonyak, who coordinates the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program for Montgomery County Public Schools in Virginia.

 

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Massachusetts Tightens Rules on Restraining, Secluding Students

Under new rules, Massachusetts schools will not be allowed to use certain techniques to restrain or isolate students as frequently and will have to report all restraints and injuries.

New York City Sends $30 Million a Year to School With History of Giving Kids Electric Shocks

New York City kids make up the vast majority of the students at Massachusetts’ infamous Judge Rotenberg Center, and keep getting sent there despite repeated evidence of abuse.

Los Angeles and New York Pin Down School Kids and Then Say It Never Happened

All school districts in the country are required to tell the federal government how many times kids have been restrained in their schools. But some districts aren't following through.

Federal Investigators Crack Down on Two Virginia Schools’ Use of Restraints

Investigators found that children were being regularly pinned down or isolated and that their education was suffering as a result.

Meet the Groups Fighting Against Limits on Restraining School Kids

Republicans say it is a matter of states' rights.