|Action||Promulgating new regulation governing seclusion & restraint in public elementary & secondary schools|
|Comment Period||Ends 4/19/2019|
show leadership-ban dangerous restraint and seclusion
To the Members of the Board of Education:
It is difficult for us to put into words the trauma that resulted to our whole family from the incidence of restraint and seclusion that occurred in 2007 to our son JQ who has a diagnosis of autism. This event in a Fairfax County Public Elementary School had a cascading effect of paralyzing grief for us as parents and for our son, JQ, he never again felt safe at any school and remains fearful of school to this day. He is now 26 y.o.
On that day, in 2007, it was an indoor recess in the gym. JQ wanted to be outside on the swings, but running the perimeter of the gym was the task. He wanted to go back to the classroom after completing one lap. In his mind, he did what he was asked and didn’t want to sit while the others kept running their repeat laps. So he ran from the gym up the stairs to his class. That is as much as we know for sure. Whatever transpired after that resulted in him being held down by 4 adults in a darkened room for over 2 hours until his dad was able to leave work to come to get him. He was still in restraint when his dad arrived to pick him up. In JQ's mind, he was attacked by the adults that he knew and up to that point trusted.
No one was in any imminent threat of bodily injury when he ran to his class. The staff had just within the last month, completed “Mandt” training. According to the web page for Mandt, “The Mandt System is a comprehensive, integrated approach to preventing, de-escalating, and if necessary, intervening when the behavior of an individual poses a threat of harm to themselves and/or others.”
Staff at this school in 2007 skipped the prevention and de-escalation steps of the strategy and went directly to prone restraint in a darkened room for 2 hours. Seems like they also skipped the part of the program that instructed them that the event should not be prolonged.
“If it is a possibility, it is a probability” best describes the attitudes of anyone who has restraint and seclusion at their disposal. Rather than looking for and understanding the causes and triggers of complex and challenging behaviors, the go-to response is to take the disobedient or agitated student to a seclusion room or hold them in restraint. We should be teaching research-validated classroom and whole-school strategies that focus on preventative practices along with building the skills and knowledge to maintain safe, orderly and inclusive environments for meaningful learning for all students.
There are many schools and school systems throughout the world who do not use restraint and seclusion on students. The use of these techniques on children in Virginia is a violation of their basic human rights and the post-traumatic stress symptoms that result are felt by the whole family. Virginia’s history and statistics of mistreatment of disadvantaged populations should make the Board of Education reluctant to anoint a policy that can be used with impunity against students unable to protect themselves from abuse of authority.
All students have the right to be free from restraint or seclusion of any form and especially be free from these techniques being imposed as a means of coercion, discipline, convenience, or retaliation. These aversive techniques are used on non-verbal students. No one can be sure that staff is not using this as discipline, convenience or even retaliation. It is not possible to rely on the documentation that is one-sided. We have seen that Fairfax County is willing to falsify reports to the federal government. Why would we trust the documentation from that school district for any other record they keep? Reports are not consistently sent home to parents. A non-verbal child is sent home distraught and then refuses to go to school. How will a parent know what transpired? It is not rare that schools fail to communicate and record these incidents. You “requiring” staff to report will not change this behavior of the schools concerned about a paper trail and keeping a code of silence.
“Imminent risk of serious physical injury” is the standard you propose. These terms leave a lot of discretion for a range of scenarios to arise. What is imminent? Is it immediate? What if the child retreats? What is serious? How do you know if the harm will be serious? Will that perceived harm on the part of the adult outweigh the serious emotional and physical harm that certainly results to the child?
The staff deserves better support and training from the administration rather than subjecting them to resorting to risky physical restraints of a child. School staff have the right to work in a safe environment and should be provided training, resources, and support to prevent injury and trauma to themselves and others. Instruct school staff on how to look for triggers, manage challenging behaviors and limit the incidence and impact of complex behaviors in the classroom. Staff should be provided research-validated classroom and whole-school strategies that focus on preventative practices, not punitive practices. Staff should be offered the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge to maintain safe, orderly and inclusive environments for meaningful learning for all students.
This practice has irrevocably harmed our son with lasting trauma to everyone in the family. You are on notice from many families in Virginia of the damage that results and cannot claim ignorance of the adverse impacts when they occur in the future.
Stop the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools in Virginia. Rather than promulgating regulations, step forward and ban the practice.
Show leadership rather than becoming accessories to the continued infliction of life-long damage to countless children in Virginia that you are charged with educating.
John Quigley and Teresa Champion