Dover School Board Approves New Restraint/SeclusionProcedures
In October the School Board adopted new rules for situations when staffencounter situations where physical restraint is necessary to keep students safe. The new procedures clarify what staff are expected to do before, during and after situations where restraints are used to prevent students from harming themselves or others. The document also specifies what is considered a restraint and when such action is appropriate. These updated procedures were created to ensure that the school district's policy is implemented in a way that is aligned to new state requirements and the process for developing the new policy was created with input from an 18-person task force, including two members of the DFSA.
Disability rights groups, including DFSA, are interested in the issue of restraint and seclusion because students in special education are most commonly subjected to the practices, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights. Nationally, although 12 percent of the nation's public school students receive special education services, students in special education represent 75 percent of the students who were physically restrained during the 2011-12 school year, and 58 percent of those who were secluded, defined by the Education Department as "involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving." (i.e., distinguished from "timeouts," which involve monitoring the student in a "non-locked setting" to calm him or her down).
The use of restraint in Dover is rare, affecting less than 10 students within the district for the 2014/2015 school year. Seclusion is not used in the Dover School Distirct. The new procedures, are similar to previously existing procedures in that district staff must try to de-escalate a situation before coming into physical contact with students. When such action is necessary, only trained staff can intervene in that manner using approved methods. Placing students in restraints while in a supine or prone position is not permitted. Under state law, all restraint incidents are to be documented, and the new procedures say parents must be sent a report of the incident within four business days. The state allows up to seven business days before a report is sent.
"The purpose of the restraint should be to assist the student to regain emotional and behavioral stability. It should last only as long as is necessary to accomplish this," the document continues. "To the extent possible, it should be conducted in such a way as to preserve the confidentiality and dignity of all involved."