Education Secretary Duncan Sends Letter to Chief State School Officers Regarding Seclusion & Restraint in Schools

     Last Friday, July 31st, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to the Chief State School Officers in each state encouraging them to review their state’s “current policies and guidelines regarding the use of retraints and seclusion in schools to ensure every student is safe and protected, and if appropriate, develop or revise its policies and guidelines.” Secretary Duncan referred to testimony before the Education and Labor Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives examining “the abusive and potentially deadly misapplication of seclusion and restraint techniques in schools.” Additionally, Secretary Duncan noted testimony by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers. My readers are also aware of  the National Disability Rights Network’s Report on seclusion and restraint in schools (see NDRN Releases Shocking Report on Seclusion and Restraint in U.S. Schools).

     Moreover, Secretary Duncan urges states to publicize their policies and guidelines regarding restraint and seclusion “so that administrators, teachers, and parents understand and consent to the limited circumstances under which these techniques may be used; ensure that parents are notified when these interventions occur; and provide the resources needed to successfully implement the policies and hold school districts accountable for adhering to the guidelines.”

      Additionally, the letter encourages the Chief State School Officers to have the revised policies in place before the start of the 2009-10 school year “to help ensure that no child is subjected to the abusive or potentially deadly use of seclusion and restraint in school.” Secretary Duncan says that Department of Education (DOE) staff will contact the offices of the Chief State School Officers by August 15 to discuss the status of their State’s efforts to limit the use of seclusion and restraint. During that contact DOE staff will discuss  “relevant State laws, regulations, policies, and guidance that affect the use of seclusion and restraint, and any plans for further development and revisions.” Finally and notably, DOE expects to post the results of these discussions on its website “to assist in the sharing of information that will help protect our students.”

     Thus, concerned citizens should be able to track the activity in their states. If there are particular issues in your state regarding the use of seclusion and restraint in your schools, I suggest you notify your State’s Department of Education as well as the U.S. Department of Education of your concerns. Click here to find your State’s Department  of Education.  Secretary Duncan designated Fran Waller of DOE’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education as the Chief State School Officer contact for this endeavor. Her number is (202) 205-9198 and her e mail is Fran.Walter@ed.gov. It might be worth reviewing the recommendations made in the NDRN Report School is Not Supposed to Hurt: Investigative Report on Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools , to see if your state has those recommendations in place. This is an opportunity to ensure that children are safe in our schools.

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