AASA Urges Federal Restraint in Seclusion and Restraint Legislation

New Study Demonstrates Schools Use Practice Responsibly

Contact: Sasha Pudelski, spudelski@aasa.org, 703-774-6933

Alexandria, Va. July 11, 2012 - The American Association School Administrators (AASA) today released the second survey in a multi-part study on the use of seclusion and restraint in public schools. The study, Keeping Schools Safe: Ensuring Federal Policy Promotes School Safety, contains new data on the use of these practices in schools and compares current federal policy proposals with state legislation crafted in collaboration with superintendents.

The study, completed in April 2011 and based on responses from 389 superintendents from across the country, found that

•94 percent of school districts monitor students at all times when they are in seclusion.
•97 percent of school administrators end the use of seclusion and restraint as soon as the emergency ends.
•97 percent of survey participants responded that they do not use mechanical restraints on students under any circumstances.
•80 percent of all school personnel trained in the use of seclusion and restraint are also trained in nonviolent intervention techniques.

“This study demonstrates that school administrators do not need state or federal law to mandate that they act in the best interest of students when using seclusion and restraint techniques. Administrators are implementing these policies on their own,” said AASA executive director Daniel A. Domenech. “AASA opposes current federal policy proposals. We do not feel that these bills are based on good-faith efforts to craft common-sense, helpful policies.”

“No one is advocating the use seclusion and restraint as a standard practice or as a means of punishment,” Domenech continued. “The goal of state and local policy should be to end the inappropriate use of these practices. We know that many states are trying a variety of approaches to learn what is effective. We need to support these efforts and learn which ones are working, rather than rush to pass federal policy without this information.”

The study cites a statute recently passed in Wisconsin—developed with broad support from both school leaders and disability advocates—that offers a model of clear, commonsense standards. In comparing current practices with legislation proposed by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa (S.2020) in December 2011, the study found that the Senate bill:

•Lacks a reasonable option of intervening when a student’s behavior is dangerous or unmanageable.
•Creates onerous reporting requirements for school districts without improving school practice or policy.
•Forbids school personnel from secluding a student for any reason, even if the technique has already proven effective.

Keeping Schools Safe praises the U.S. Department of Education’s recently released Resource Document, which outlines principles for schools to consider as they craft local seclusion and restraint policies. Because of the fiscal constraints of the current economy, however, many school districts cannot afford to comply with particular training and procedural suggestions outlined by the Department. According to the study,

•43% of school administrators indicated the elimination of the Safe and Drug Free Funding has made it “considerably more difficult” to fund professional development, training, or programs like positive behavioral support systems and nonviolent crisis interventions •91% of respondents said their school district would benefit from funding to implement school-wide positive behavioral support and intervention systems and nonviolent crisis interventions.

AASA hopes Congress will act to fill this gap.

“If Congress wants to make seclusion and restraint safer and more effective,” commented AASA government affairs manager and author of the study, Sasha Pudelski, “then Congress should provide funds to implement more professional development and training for school staff members on evidence-based practices that reduce the inappropriate use of these techniques. Grants to districts to support appropriate intervention practices, such as positive behavior interventions and supports could make a huge difference in student safety and in school districts’ ability to use these practices wisely.”

AASA will continue to monitor and report on changes to state seclusion and restraint policies and legislation. The complete study, in addition to the first report in the series, is attached and also posted at www.aasa.org/seclusionrestraint.aspx.