Office of the Child Advocate releases report on restraint in schools

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HARTFORD – The Office of the Child Advocate released its report on restraint and seclusion in schools in the state, raising  concerns about the the frequency of the practice, lack of compliance with the law and concerns over how the needs of the children are being met.

Saying in the past three years over 1,300 children were injured, over two dozen of them seriously, while in restraint or seclusion, the report called for changes in the way children with behavioral problems were handled, increased monitoring and more support was needed for both children and staff.

The report said, “OCA’s findings, based on observations, data reviews, field-work, and response to citizen concerns raise significant concern regarding the frequency with which young children with disabilities were restrained or secluded, the lack of documentation or actual compliance with state laws, and the prevalence of unidentified and unmet educational needs for children subject to forceful or isolative measures. Significant concern is also raised regarding the spaces used for seclusion, which have included utility closets, storage closets, and cell-like spaces.”

OCA called for identification, evaluation and appropriately education of children in all areas of disability, with emphasis on the communication development from the youngest possible age.

OCA said new laws cannot do the job alone. Schools “must necessarily incorporate meaningful technical and resource support for professionals working with our most vulnerable children.”

OCA had the following recommendations:

1) Ensure consistency with current research and best practices for children regarding the potential harms of restraint and seclusion;
2) Increase monitoring and evaluation of restraint and seclusion; and
3) Offer more support, including training and capacity building, for schools to meet the varied and specialized learning needs of children with and without disabilities. OCA emphasizes that building capacity and effectiveness does not always (though sometimes does) require more dollars over fixed periods of time, but rather requires efficient and strategic planning within available appropriations. Children must be supported in all areas of development from the youngest possible age, benefitting from positive behavioral supports, functional skill development, and social-emotional learning.

Read the full report.