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Thousands of Children Secluded or Restrained in Ohio Schools

PHOTO: A new issue brief from the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio outlines steps that can be implemented to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion in Ohio's schools. Photo credit: Lance Nellson/Flickr.
PHOTO: A new issue brief from the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio outlines steps that can be implemented to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion in Ohio's schools. Photo credit: Lance Nellson/Flickr.
February 12, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio - New research shows current policies may not be adequately protecting Ohio school children from the use of seclusion and restraint.

The state Board of Education approved rules to regulate the use of the discipline practices in 2013, including the collection of data on its use. According to an issue brief from the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, in the following school year, 4,000 public school children were secluded or restrained, some multiple times.

CDF executive director Renuka Mayadev says nearly 80 percent of those restrained were students with disabilities.

"We see school officials resorting to these practices because many of them are stressed and overburdened," Mayadev says. "They may not have the time or the patience to effectively engage students suffering from autism or other disabilities."

The research recommends a ban on seclusion, and a ban on the use of restraint except in situations of extreme emergency. Mayadev adds, better data collection on the disciplinary measures is also needed and it should be made available to the public.

Mayadev says interventions should be used that reward positive student behavior. She describes alternative practices that have been shown to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint, such as comfort rooms.

"A comfort room is a designated space in a school that is used to calm the senses of the student if he or she is acting out or is over-stimulated," she says.

Mayadev says research shows the use of seclusion or restraint can result in physical harm, psychological trauma and fear for the child. She also questions the impact on the other students, teachers and the school environment.

"If they hear a child screaming or threats or physical abuse, it creates a school culture that is not positive, that does not foster warmth and growth for learning," she says.

States including Georgia, Nevada, and Texas ban the use of seclusion in schools.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH