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Lawmakers Debate Using Restraint On Special Needs Students

Indiana legislators discussed Wednesday whether the state should place tighter restraints on the use of seclusion rooms for special needs children.

Randy Head in Study Committee

Photo: Brandon Smith/IPBS

Sen. Randy Head (left, at podium) presents his legislation to members of the Autism study committee Wednesday.

Indiana lawmakers are investigating the seclusion and restraint of children in schools who who have special needs as they look for ways to greater control the practice.

The medical community and special needs advocacy groups largely agree that special needs children in school environments sometimes require seclusion or restraint when they become out of control. But Indiana is one of 19 states that does not govern the practice in any way.

Logansport Republican Senator Randy Head says that has to change.

“Last year, a teacher or teachers duct-taped a student to a chair,” Head says. “This student had autism spectrum disorder and this was a punishment for them and the chair that they were duct-taped to was intended to help the posture of students with cerebral palsy.”

Head is proposing legislation that would regulate what types of practices are acceptable, mandate teacher training, require parental consent and notification and create a reporting system for schools.

Indiana Resource Center for Autism director Cathy Pratt says teacher training is one of the most important components of any legislation.

“I see many teachers who are not given the tools,” she says. “I see many teachers who react out of fear and, when they react out of fear, they often respond in an inappropriate fashion.”

Pratt says it is just as important for teachers to learn how to de-escalate a situation as it is to learn how to deal with a crisis.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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