How do schools manage discipline for students with disabilities? A brief from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire has documented that schools are significantly more likely to use restraint or seclusion on students with disabilities than on students without disabilities. While the majority of districts reported zero instances of either method, affluent districts, in particular, were more likely to use seclusion or restraint than districts with higher concentrations of poverty. The researchers suggest that schools may take these “extreme measures” when positive behavioral techniques prove ineffective.
Two datasets were used in this study: the 2009-2010 Civil Rights Data Collection and 2009 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates. For this research, restraint is defined as physical or mechanical means to restrict freedom of motion and seclusion as involuntary isolation lasting a few minutes.
The results indicate that while there were only 0.1 instances of restraint or seclusion per 100 students without a disability, there were 2.6 instances for every 100 students with a disability. The majority of school districts did not use either method—59.3 percent reported having never used restraint and 82.5 had never used seclusion, but the districts that did report using restraint or seclusion used them frequently.
Districts with higher concentrations of poverty or of black and Hispanic students had lower rates of restraint and seclusion. In contrast, schools with low levels of poverty and diversity used restraint and seclusion more than twice as frequently.
“Schools today are tasked with implementing positive techniques that can effectively manage the difficult and sometimes violent behaviors of the most challenging students with a disability, which might lead some schools to more extreme measures,” stated the researchers. They also noted that the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders only recommends restraint and solution when “a child presents an immediate danger to him- or herself or others.”
The researchers conclude that more study is needed to understand why some districts restrain or seclude children with disabilities at disproportionately high rates.
This research is presented in a brief from the Carsey Institute, “Variation in rates of restraint and seclusion among students with a disability.” The brief can be found online here.
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