According to Arne (2010), restraint is defined as the application of physical force as well as mechanical device in order to curtail the free movement of a student’s body, either in portion or totality. On the other hand, seclusion is a behavior management technique, which entails having a student, who exhibits a dangerous behavior, being locked in a box, closet or room that is designed solely for the isolation of such individuals. Several schools in the United States embrace seclusion and restraint for students with severe behavioral problems. This paper discusses the use of restrain and seclusion in education setting. It also explores the ethical and legal issues surrounding the use of such measures in dealing with students, whose behaviors are deemed to be dangerous to other students or themselves.
Seclusion and restraint are harmful and unfit for all children; it is an unethical act that should not be practiced in schools. In essence, schools should create an environment for learning and personal growth, rather than a platform for learners to fear and distrust the authority. Most individuals, who have been subjected to seclusion, usually feel bitter, even years after the incidence. Such occurrences remain in the memory of such individuals as the evidence of their psychiatric illness. An act that makes an individual feel dehumanized and tortured should not be celebrated as a corrective measure for dangerous behaviors. In fact, experts have argued that the use of restraint as well as seclusion as tools for managing students, who experience developmental and behavioral disorders, are quite ineffective. The techniques lack educational and therapeutic values. In contrary, they can deepen a negative behavior pattern in children, increase children’s arousal and undermine the trust and capacity for learning in the affected students (Sheehy, 2012).
Several schools in the United States often resort to illegal use of restraint and seclusion on students, who have behavioral problems. It alarms that the use of this crude method is on the increase. According to the report, released by the U.S. Department of Education in March 2012 for the school year 2009-2010, there were over 25 thousand incidents of seclusion. In the same year, nearly 39 thousand students were subjected to mechanical, physical or chemical forms of restraint. Unfortunately, minority groups and children with disabilities receive the largest share of these inhuman treatments. The study further shows that 70% of those subjected to seclusion and restraints are students with disabilities. It also revealed that Latino and African-American students are subjected to the same twice as much as their fellow students in class (Sheehy, 2012). In May 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report of the study they carried out concerning the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. The study revealed that restraint and seclusion in education setting is responsible for hundreds of cases of abuse and death that in schools. Corrective measures are not meant to take away lives, this measures that lead to lose of students’ life can only be considered as unethical.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments (IDEA) require schools to carry out a functional behavioral assessment (FBA). FBA would, in turn, enable a school to develop a behavioral intervention plan in bid to assist any student with a disability and exhibit severe behavior problems. Similarly, IDEA requires that this intervention plan is employed in situations, where students with disabilities are to be subjected to a serious disciplinary action, for instance, change in placement. FBA and the intervention plans are to be conducted either before the disciplinary action is undertaken or not later than ten days after the student has undergone through the disciplinary measure. The IDEA requirements that relate the behavior of students with disabilities to disciplinary problems are basically founded on two assumptions. First, effective means of addressing behavior problems depends on the knowledge one has about the cause of the particular behavior. In order to acquire the knowledge, a functional assessment has to be conducted on the student’s behavior. Second, punitive strategies are less effective in changing severe behavior problems as opposed to behavior interventions that employ positive intervention strategies (Filter &Alvarez, 2012).
Federal guidelines demand that the functional behavioral assessment is conducted to determine whether the behavior exhibited by a particular student is a product of the student’s disability. In essence, this assessment seeks to establish if the disability has substantially impaired the student’s ability to put the exhibited behavior under control. It is also meant to establish if the student’s disability has impaired his or her awareness about the disciplinary action that he or she is set to meet. In case the assessment reveals that the student’s severe behavior is caused by disability, then punitive measures should be withdrawn in favor of helping the student overcome the problem. This explains why FBA is mandated by federal laws to determine when a student’s placement can be altered as a result of behavioral problem (Bundrick, 2010).
The state of Texas has issued guidelines on how a student exhibiting dangerous behaviors can be handled. The regulations of the state require that all students are educated in a safe environment and are treated with respect and dignity. Section 37 0021 of Texas Education Code on use of seclusion, restraint, timeout as well as confinement demands that not only mainstream students should be entitled dignity and respect, but also students with disabilities, who are entitled to receive special education services. The code prohibits the act of subjecting students to restraint and seclusion, except for the cases of emergency. Section 89 1053 of Texas Administrative Code enumerates the procedures that should be adhered to, while responding to an emergency case that prompts the use restraint and timeout (Arne, 2010).
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A situation qualifies to be an emergency if the behavior of a student at any particular time poses threats to the student himself or herself, other people around the student, and possible destruction to property. In case of use of timeout, the code states that this should only be for the purpose of giving the student an ample time to regain a self-control. Therefore, such students should only be separated from others just for a short period of time and be placed in a room that is not locked. While using restraint in the case of an emergency, the code allows use of minimum force just to address the emergency and seize the restraint, once the emergency is over. The restraint should be implemented in order to protect the safety as well as health of the student and others, but should not in any way deprive the disabled student of basic human necessities (Arne, 2010). Just as in Texas, most states have their own laws regulating the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, when dealing with severe behavioral problems. The guidelines given by Texas on restraint and seclusion are in line with the position statements issued by both the Association of Professional Behavior Analyst and the Association for Behavior Analysis International in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
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In most cases, schools overlook the role they ought to play in preventing the situations from escalating to a tense level that necessitates seclusion and restraints. This is due to the fact that most of the staff members, who deal with such situations, have little training and often believe that physical handling and restraining students is the first viable option, when intervening in situations of severe behaviors. However, a disruptive behavior in students can be prevented by the positive reinforcement, inclusion as well as individual attention. Restraint and seclusion as conducted in most schools in U.S. remain unethical, unless carried out in moments of emergency by professionals, whose procedures meet all applicable clinical, legal, and ethical standards.