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Image above by Laura Rasey Miller, parent and artist
Stuart is a charming, intelligent, active young man with autism, anxiety and hyperactivity. He attended a school for children with behavioral challenges since school was hard for him and he reacted impulsively when his routine changed. Stuart’s parents hoped his school would have trained staff to assist him with an individual behavior plan. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, the school restrained Stuart face-down or placed him in a dark seclusion room. For nearly a year, Stuart was restrained 92 times for as long as an hour. Not surprisingly, Stuart became more anxious, depressed, and traumatized. Eventually, he no longer wanted to go to school.
Stuart’s mother contacted Disability Rights California (DRC) for assistance. DRC attended several Individual Education Plan meetings with Stuart and his parents. The school district agreed to place Stuart in a new school and provided a behavioral assessment. His new school developed an individualized behavior plan, which gave Stuart the space and time he needed to learn positive behaviors. He has not been restrained or secluded once. Stuart is doing well in all of his subjects and making friends. His parents are happy that he is now in a place where the staff truly cares about him.
I am Alex’s mother and want to share my story about why we should end restraint and seclusion in California’s schools. Alex has multiple disabilities and uses basic signs to communicate. She attends our neighborhood public school where she has lots of friends. Sometimes when Alex feels she isn’t being understood, she can become frustrated and push away those who don’t understand her.
When she was 11, my happy, fun-loving daughter no longer wanted to go to school. I also noticed that she had lots of bruises. What I learned next was my worst nightmare.
When Alex became frustrated at school, staff members would restrain her by holding her on the ground. If that didn't calm her, they would drag her to a darkened isolation room. She would sit in that room for hours, alone, whining to get out. I didn't know it was legal for a school to treat a child with a disability that way. I asked Disability Rights California for help. They worked with school staff to recognize that holding Alex down and putting her in an isolation room only made things worse and did not stop her behavior. DRC also helped the school staff develop a positive behavior plan tailored to Alex’s needs. These strategies helped Alex thrive in school.
- Bring these practices to light by telling the stories of children subjected to restraint and seclusion.
- Educate parents, guardians and the public about the hidden and unrestricted use of restraint and seclusion.
- Educate school staff and other professionals about the dangers of seclusion and restraint and how to avoid their use.
- Build a coalition of interested parents, professionals and organizations to change laws and policies and create safe school environments for all of our children.
- Reform California law to limit and eventually eliminate these practices.