Last September, I wrote a post titled Takedown or Hug, in which I discussed the use of physical restraints by school personnel. I believed then and I believe now that restraints should not be necessary and not used. I understand the rationale I hear from school staff that they are only restraining to protect the child in the middle of a meltdown as well as the other children in the classroom or school. However, my belief is that were proper supports in place prior to the meltdown, perhaps the meltdown would not have happened at all. I am not in a classroom and I do not a group of 20 or more students, some of whom may have disabilities which may result in outbursts of anger and aggression. But, I am the parent of such a child, and I have learned over the nine years that I have parented her that there are other, better ways to diffuse a situation.
An article appeared in this week’s New York Times titled, Calm Down or Else. The author of the article describes several situations in a school classroom in which physical restraints were used. While on the surface, some of the restraints may have seemed appropriate, others described were obviously mishandled situations. The author poses the question “Have the incidents of restraint being used increased because more and more children with disabilities are being mainstreamed?” Again that supposition screams out to me that the proper supports are not in place. Asking a general education teacher who has not been trained in special education services to anticipate issues encountered by a child with an emotional disability is not going to work. Train that general education teacher – provide appropriate special education support in the general education classroom – teach everyone to notice the triggers that may set a meltdown in motion – in other words, know your students, anticipate their needs, and always be aware of the nuances of behavior occurring in the classroom.
The author ends his article with the concerns that unless schools adopt policies and standards, and unless those things are clearly communicated to parents and school staff, abuses and even deaths from improperly applied restraints will continue. And, as one of the experts cited in the article says, some parents want their child restrained and some are vehemently opposed, further complicating the jobs of those professionals who are caught in the middle of the fray.
I believe it is time for a national look at this issue, and while that is happening, I believe school systems need to adopt some transitional policies and standards to ensure the safety and RESPECT of each and every student in their classrooms. And just for the record, I DO NOT WANT ANY OF MY CHILDREN RESTRAINED.
**Special Note** One exception to my stand on never restraining a child in a school is that situation where a child has brought a weapon to school. At least in my school district, all schools have a resource (police) officer assigned to the school. That officer is trained to handle weapon related situations, regardless of the age of the offender and should be the first to respond. However, if the situation is such that a teacher must act to protect others from the actions of a student with a weapon, I certainly pray that teacher has been trained and is capable of subduing the child with the weapon.