My initial response to the title of this article was, “There go the last vestige of dealing with severely dangerous and disruptive behavior…” I was thinking about some of the kids I worked with–severely behaviorally disordered children who suffered from PTSD brought on by early childhood abuses. These kids needed to be restrained and moved to a time-out area where they could work out their aggressions on padded walls.
But these are not the students at which this legislation was targeted. That is, their disruptive behavior was not what brought about these new guidelines. Rather, the release of the document was in response to the cases of abuse and death at public and private treatment centers. I followed the link below to the announcement; then followed another link to the explanation and document itself.
When I downloaded the 45-page PDF, I was not certain what I would find. Rather than a set of “don’t do this” statements, I found a thoughtful and careful delineation of alternative means to eliminate seclusion and restraint. It does not say “don’t restrain.” Rather, it says, “These are the guidelines for when you must restrain, and these are the things you need to document when you do so.” Interestingly, there were few differences from what we had to do when I was teaching in a day treatment program, when the only way to guarantee both the individual’s safety and that of the other students (and classroom adults) was to take down and restrain. Of course, there were never any apparatuses used. These kids didn’t need physical restraints–just time to calm down. I didn’t even know it was legal to put restraints on a child outside of a psychiatric ward or institution, where supervision for the entire period of restraint was available.
The main focus of this document is for states to use it as a model for their own guidelines for restraint and seclusion. Personally, I don’t see that the US DoE’s guidelines can be improved on, but each state is different and has different needs. Which is why the guidelines also establish a recommended schedule for review of adopted guidelines. Needs change, after all.