Wealthy Schools Restrain, Isolate More Students

Article excerpt

Disabled students in wealthy, less-diverse districts are twice as likely as their low-income peers to be restrained or placed in isolation in school, according to new research by the University of New Hampshire.

Restraint and isolation have been used primarily on students who pose a threat to themselves or others. And few schools resort to these physical solutions: Some 95 percent of districts reported fewer than 10 instances of restraint or seclusion per 100 students with a disability in 2009-10. But about 1 percent reported one incident for every two students that school year, and that's a significant number considering there are more than 14,000 districts nationwide, says Douglas Gagnon, a research assistant at UNH'S Carsey Institute, which conducts policy research on vulnerable children.

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Teachers in affluent districts tend to more readily remove problem students from the classroom, which may explain why there is more restraint and seclusion in wealthier districts, says Gagnon, who coauthored the 2013 study, "Variation Found in Rates of Restraint and Seclusion Among Students With a Disability."

Affluent schools may also have more resources--such as increased staffing to restrain students and locked, seclusion rooms--to implement these practices.

There are no federal laws restricting the use of restraint and seclusion, and many states also lack specific guidelines. However, policies started to change when a 2009 government accountability report documented hundreds of cases in the past two decades where students were pinned to the floor for hours at a time, handcuffed or locked in closets. At least 20 students died as a result. At the time, 21 states had some form of a law protecting students with disabilities from seclusion and restraint. Today, 32 states have such laws; however, they vary from state to state. …