The Use of Restraint and Seclusion of Students in Connecticut’s Public Schools

In early 2012, news broke regarding the use of so-called “scream rooms” for students at a school located in Middletown, Connecticut. Although the school district was quick to change its policy in light of media coverage and public outcry,[1] the practice of using last resort measures, such as restraint and seclusion, as the initial reaction to seemingly problematic students is an epidemic affecting countless public schools and districts nationwide.

Investigative journalist and filmmaker Bill Lichtenstein described in a New York Times op-ed piece, in heart-wrenching detail, what no parent should ever experience first-hand: learning that his own five-year-old daughter was routinely placed in a seclusion room over the course of several months. As he explained, “in today’s often overcrowded and underfunded schools, where one in eight students receive help for special learning needs, the use of physical restraints and seclusion rooms has become a common way to maintain order.”[2] The physical and psychological trauma inflicted upon such students can be devastating and extensive, which makes it all the more imperative that States articulate to the “t” the parameters governing restraint and seclusion of students in public schools.

Connecticut Special Education Statutes

In Connecticut, our statutes specifically address such use in the context of special education students, who have what are called “individualized education programs,” or IEPs. Restraint is generally prohibited unless there are emergency situations, as is the case with seclusion, unless it is specified as an option in the student’s IEP. In February of 2012, the Office of Legislative Research drafted “a summary of state law and regulations governing restraint and seclusion of students in Connecticut public schools,”[3] which provides an overview of applicable statutes, notification and reporting requirements, and guidelines for implementing seclusion as part of a student’s IEP. You may reach this report by clicking here.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

 

[1] “Middletown: ‘Scream Rooms’ Will No Longer Be Used For Some Students,” by Julie Stagis. http://articles.courant.com/2012-01-14/news/hc-middletown-scream-room-0112-20120111_1_timeout-rooms-students-press-conference

[2] “A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children,” by Bill Lichtenstein. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/opinion/sunday/a-terrifying-way-to-discipline-children.html

[3] “Use of Restraint and Seclusion in Connecticut Public Schools,” by John Moran, Principal Analyst, Office of Legislative Research. http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/rpt/2012-R-0084.htm

Should you have any questions regarding the use of school discipline, or any other question relating to education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at Maya Murphy, P.C.’s Westport office located in Fairfield County at (203) 221-3100 or at JMaya@mayalaw.com