REVIEW: AASA’s Report on Student Restraint and Seclusion and the Response from TASH

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As members of the special education community, many CW readers may have already heard of the recent report filed by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) titled, “Keeping Schools Safe: How Seclusion and Restraint Protects Students and School Personnel.” The AASA published this report in response to HR1381 and S2020, legislation being reviewed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate regarding the use of seclusion and restraint in schools and the lack of federal regulation thereof – basing the law on parallel federal mandates on the use of seclusion and restraint in mental health institutions. Since the publication of the report earlier this month, a lot of controversy has risen up regarding the position taken by the largest lobbying agency for school administrators since many parents, educators and parallel associations, including the disability advocacy group TASH, see their conclusions as contrary to the best interest of the students subject to seclusion and restraint.

The AASA’s Side

The American Association of School Administrators’ concern over the passage of HR1381/S2020 stems from their belief that the use of restraint in certain situations is necessary in order to ensure the general health and safety of the greater student population as well as the educators, paraprofessionals and administrators who serve them. Using largely anecdotal evidence gathered from a nation-wide survey, AASA contends that the passage of this legislation would do one of two things:

  • In the event of an educator’s inability to intervene, endanger the health and safety of bystanders to student aggression and acting out.
  • In the event of intervention, open the school to lawsuits by the parents of the restrained or secluded child due to the extreme definition of “serious bodily injury” required for physical intervention.

In effect, the AASA believes that the misuse of restraint and seclusion is isolated to a few places and individuals and that overall the techniques used in these cases are only employed as a last resort, after other alternative de-escalation measures are fully employed. The group concludes:

AASA does not think the use of seclusion and restraint should be commonplace, or used as a means for punishing bad behavior. Rather, AASA believes seclusion and restraint are necessary tools in the toolbox of school personnel to defend themselves and their students from incidents that could be dangerous for everyone who attends or works in a school. (p. 9)

TASH RESPONDS

After the initial report from AASA was read, many disability advocacy groups and parents of special needs students were immediately put on the defensive. Chief among those outraged was the organization previously known as The Association for the Severely Handicapped, now simply called TASH.

In an open letter dated yesterday, the disability advocacy organization lambasted the AASA for their shortsighted interpretation of HR1381/S2020 as well as what they see as a disproportionate outcry against students with special needs. They cite figures from their own survey which clearly show the disproportionate relationship between seclusion and restraint and the special needs student.

  • 69% of all incidents of restraint and seclusion were directed towards children under 10.
  • 70% of students who were secluded or restrained were identified as having disabilities.
  • And among that 70%, 60% of disabled students were shown to have limited or no communication mechanism (including speech) and most were autistic.

TASH’s concern, which parallels many others in the special needs community, was that the lack of direction from a federal (read: universal) level in terms of when the use of seclusion and restraint is needed causes the practice to be abused and the children subjected to it to suffer emotionally as well as physically.

The conclusion of the TASH report was far more damning than the AASA’s. It states:

While AASA promotes the use of these techniques in “emergency” situations, restraint and seclusion by school personnel are most often used for convenience and punishment, not for emergencies… What amounts to a deeply flawed and highly anecdotal report from an AASA lobbyist fails to address readily available research and examine the issue of restraint and seclusion through the lens of those most adversely affected – our children. We expect a great deal more from the nation’s school administrators (p. 1, 3)

Your Turn to Weigh In…

As a community dedicated to the needs of special education and at-risk students, I am interested to see how CW readers react to these two reports. I invite you to follow the links above to the full reports as a means to familiarize yourself with the data and argument methods.

What experiences have you had with seclusion and restrain in your own schools or professional careers? Who do you side with, the AASA or TASH?

AD Midd

About AD Midd

AD is a college writing teacher whose work experience includes everything from coordinating YMCA after-school programs for at-risk youth to tutoring developmental writing students to general classroom instruction. In addition to writing professionally, AD currently teaches a range of adult community college students in both online and physical classroom settings. At home, she keeps in shape by running after her two young daughters. Follow her on Twitter @ADMidd and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ADMidd1)

One thought on “REVIEW: AASA’s Report on Student Restraint and Seclusion and the Response from TASH

  1. Pingback: Taking a Look at Seclusion and Restraint in Schools: The Impact of Physical Reactions to Violence | Bullying Education

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