Parents, advocates question seclusion and restraint guidelines

Published: Oct. 19, 2016 at 4:36 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2016 at 7:09 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Parents and advocates for people with disabilities in Virginia are questioning the state's Department of Education's seclusion and restraint draft guidelines.

The Virginia Department of Education created the guidelines after legislation was passed by the General Assembly in 2015 telling the state to create guidelines based on the 15 principles that were issued federally, by the U.S. Department of Education.

Click here to see the bill.

The 15 principles are:

  1. Every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and for the use of seclusion.
  2. Schools should never use mechanical restraints to restrict a child’s freedom of movement, and schools should never use a drug or medication to control behavior or restrict freedom of movement (except as authorized by a licensed physician or other qualified health professional).
  3. Physical restraint or seclusion should not be used except in situations where the child’s behavior poses an imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others and other interventions are ineffective and should be discontinued as soon as imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others has dissipated.
  4. Policies restricting the use of restraint and seclusion should apply to all children, not just children with disabilities.
  5. Any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child’s rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse.
  6. Restraint or seclusion should never be used as punishment or discipline (e.g., placing in seclusion for out-of-seat behavior), as a means of coercion or retaliation, or as a convenience.
  7. Restraint or seclusion should never be used in a manner that restricts a child’s breathing or harms the child.
  8. The use of restraint or seclusion, particularly when there is repeated use for an individual child, multiple uses within the same classroom, or multiple uses by the same individual, should trigger a review and, if appropriate, revision of strategies currently in place to address dangerous behavior; if positive behavioral strategies are not in place, staff should consider developing them.
  9. Behavioral strategies to address dangerous behavior that results in the use of restraint or seclusion should address the underlying cause or purpose of the dangerous behavior.
  10. Teachers and other personnel should be trained regularly on the appropriate use of effective alternatives to physical restraint and seclusion, such as positive behavioral interventions and supports and, only for cases involving imminent danger of serious physical harm, on the safe use of physical restraint and seclusion.
  11. Every instance in which restraint or seclusion is used should be carefully and continuously and visually monitored to ensure the appropriateness of its use and safety of the child, other children, teachers, and other personnel.
  12. Parents should be informed of the policies on restraint and seclusion at their child’s school or another educational setting, as well as applicable Federal, State, or local laws.
  13. Parents should be notified as soon as possible following each instance in which restraint or seclusion is used with their child.
  14. Policies regarding the use of restraint and seclusion should be reviewed regularly and updated as appropriate.
  15. Policies regarding the use of restraint and seclusion should provide that each incident involving the use of restraint or seclusion should be documented in writing and provide for the collection of specific data that would enable teachers, staff, and other personnel to understand and implement the preceding principles.

The state came out with guidelines earlier this year they allege is similar to the principles, but advocates say there are too many loopholes that will not protect children.

Click here to see the state's draft guidelines.

"There was [sic] no requirements of parental notification.There is no requirements for data collection," said Jamie Liban, executive director for the ARC. "There is no requirement that would limit the use of seclusion and restraint like instances it should be used, versus instances it shouldn't be used."

Marie Tucker, a parent who says her son was restrained and secluded during kindergarten, agrees. Tucker also spoke to the general assembly hoping to get laws passed in 2015.

She plans to speak again on Oct. 27, the next time the department plans to present their draft guidelines to the board; this presentation comes after three presentations during October involving public comment about the draft guidelines.

"Department staff are in the process of revising the draft regulations to reflect public comment on areas where there was a consensus among the various parties that participated in the roundtable sessions or otherwise shared their views with VDOE. The revised draft will be presented to the state Board of Education on Thursday, Oct. 27," said Charles Pyle, the public information officer for the Virginia Department of Education.

More information on the ARC of Virginia's problems with the draft regulations can be found here.

Click here for information on the Board of Education's Oct. 27 meeting and how to participate.

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