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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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More on This Investigation

Washington Legislature Moves to Limit Schools Pinning Down and Isolating Kids

It’s the latest in a national trend to reduce restraints of school kids.

New York City Lays Out Limits on Restraints And Suspensions

Amid recent calls for reform, New York City’s Department of Education is introducing new restrictions on suspending and restraining kids in city schools.

Connecticut Schools Pin Down and Restrain ‘Staggering’ Number of Kids

A new state report found one public school student was restrained more than 700 times in one year.

Virginia Passes Bill to Rein in Restraints of School Kids

Many schools in the state still have no policies or rules around pinning kids down.

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.