Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Should Indiana Regulate Seclusion And Restraint In Schools?

    Boryana Katsarova / AFP / Getty Images

    Special education advocates say Indiana needs formal rules governing the use of seclusion rooms and physical restraint.

    Special education advocates urged state lawmakers Wednesday to adopt formal rules governing the use of seclusion and restraint in schools.

    As we’ve written before, the Indiana Department of Education already recommends school districts adopt seclusion and restraint policies. But ARC of Indiana Associate Director Kim Dodson says the IDOE’s guidance doesn’t go far enough.

    “What we have is some schools with very good, thoughtful policies, we have some schools with not so good policies, and then we still have a lot of schools with no policies at all,” Dodson told the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.

    Dodson testified in favor of Sen. Randy Head’s proposal to require schools develop seclusion and restraint policies. She says school districts need to notify parents “in a reasonable timeframe” if their children are restrained or sent to a seclusion room to cool down.

    Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, wanted examples of schools with good seclusion and restraint policies. “Does this work, in a practical sense?” he asked.

    Cathy Pratt thinks so. She’s the director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism. Pratt says educators and classroom aides need tools to help them work with students with special needs because the wrong approach can escalate challenging behavior.

    “I want you to understand. The kids that we’re talking about are not the children who come in one time carrying a gun,” says Pratt. “These are kids with significant disabilities who have challenges and limitations and who exhibit challenging behaviors because of those limitations.”

    A representative from State Superintendent Glenda Ritz’s office voiced support for the proposed changes. John Barnes says it’s important to the superintendent that local districts maintain control of training programs that teach educators effective seclusion and restraint techniques.

    But Frank Bush, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, questioned whether every school district in the state needs its own policy.

    “We don’t want 289 different policies,” says Bush, adding his organization would prefer the IDOE develop a uniform policy.

    Do Charter Schools Also Need Seclusion & Restraint Policies?

    As written, Sen. Head’s proposal would also require the state’s charter schools to adopt seclusion and restraint rules.

    Indiana Public Charter Schools Association President Russ Simnick says because so many of the state’s charter schools serve specific student populations — say, a fine arts school or math and science academy — the legislation isn’t needed.

    Simnick says charter schools are already held accountable to their authorizers and don’t need additional oversight.

    “What kind of policies on restraint would a virtual school need?” he asked.


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