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Discussion: Should Public Schools be Free to Pin Down Students?


Icon by Luis Prado from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0)

Should teachers be allowed to forcibly restrain students or hold them in rooms against their will even in cases where there’s no emergency? What are the best practices for handling uncooperative students, especially those with disabilities?

Our recent investigation on the widespread use of restraints and so-called seclusions of kids in public schools has raised questions about the dangers of the tactics, and whether they’re being overused. As Heather Vogell reports:

School superintendents who defend the practices say they are needed to protect teachers and children when students grow so agitated that their behavior turns dangerous. They argue that if educators don't have the freedom to restrain and isolate children as they see fit, they will be forced to send more students to restrictive settings such as residential institutions…

Most critics of restraints agree they are sometimes unavoidable. But they say schools too often fail to try alternatives for calming students and use the tactics for the wrong reasons—because children failed to follow directions, for instance, or had tantrums. Indeed, in a recent survey, nearly 1 in 5 school district leaders approved of using restraints or seclusion as punishment.

Join ProPublica on Monday, June 30, at 1 pm ET for a live discussion on the widespread practice of restraint in U.S. schools, including:

  • Heather Vogell, veteran investigative reporter covering schools for ProPublica
  • Heather Luke, whose autistic son Carson was injured when public school staff members crushed his hand in a door while trying to close him in a seclusion room in a Chesapeake, Va., education facility
  • Cyndi Pitonyak, who coordinates the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program for Montgomery County Public Schools in Virginia

Have a question for our panel? Tag it #RestrainingStudents on Twitter or leave it in the comments below.