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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

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.

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

Highlights from our live discussion on the widespread restraint and seclusion of U.S. schoolchildren

Violent and Legal: The Shocking Ways School Kids are Being Pinned Down, Isolated Against Their Will

Carson Luke, a young boy with autism, shattered bones in his hand and foot after educators grabbed him and tried to shut him into a “scream room.” Kids across the country risked similar harm at least 267,000 times in just one school year.

Journalists: How to Report on Restraints in U.S. Schools

A ProPublica guide to reporting on restraint and seclusion in public schools — sign up to be matched with tips and sources in your state.