Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2007

State Board of Education to create guidelines for restraining unruly students

February 15, 2007


The Kansas State Board of Education decided Wednesday to begin working on guidelines on how schools should restrain or seclude unruly special education students.

However, strong regulations - not mere guidelines - are needed to ensure the safety of students who might be restrained to the point they are injured, advocates say.

"Terrible things have been happening out there across Kansas," said Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Topeka-based Disability Rights Center.

Some of the incidents reported included holding students down with gym mats and even putting a student in a dog crate, Nichols said.

"Unfortunately, there is no regulation, which means anything goes," Nichols said.

Jennifer Berends, whose son has cerebral palsy and oppositional defiant disorder, told the state board that her son, Matthew Whaley, was locked up on different occasions in a school restroom.

"He had to even eat his meals in this room," she said.

Berends said because of problems her son had in another community, she decided to relocate to Lawrence.

"We moved to Lawrence public schools prior to the beginning of this school year and Matthew has not exhibited the extreme behaviors that were present in the old school," she told the board.

Berends was among about two dozen parents of special education students from across the state who asked the board to adopt formal regulations. The regulations would spell out how school districts should handle secluding and restraining students with behavioral problems.

Audio Clips
Seclusion and restraint

However, the board decided 6-4 to have its staff first study creating guidelines while collecting information about abuses in the state.

"I'm disappointed, I'm glad and I'm shocked all at the same time," Nichols said. "I'm disappointed the board chose guidelines. I'm glad that enforceable regulations are still on the table. And shocked that inmates in Kansas prisons have more protection than children in Kansas schools, even after the state board's actions."

Jane Rhys, director of the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities, said the good news was the board decided to collect more information about abuses and that guidelines were being considered.

Bruce Passman, deputy superintendent for Lawrence public schools, said he was pleased the board decided not to create additional regulations for schools.

Lawrence has already come up with its own plans and procedures, which are used as part of an Individual Education Plan worked out by parents and educators, he said.

Some, not all, of Lawrence's schools have special rooms where students are placed if they have emotional or behavioral problems, he said.

He said Free State High School recently built a time-out seclusion room and Southwest Junior High School has a room that can be used in its new addition.

According to special education statutes and regulations, parents can file a complaint to the Kansas State Department of Education, file a request for mediation or request a due process hearing, he said.

Last year there was one complaint filed against Lawrence concerning the use of a seclusion room, Passman said.

"We did address the issue to the satisfaction of the Kansas State Department of Education and the case was closed," he said. That complaint was the only one filed in the last 20 years against Lawrence's public schools, he said.


KS 11 years, 2 months ago

The State Board "SHOULD" be focusing on this matter. It is more important than finding out our ancestors came from a scum pond!

bd 11 years, 2 months ago

Sorry, but my wife worked at a small rural school district as a paraeducator with special needs children, she would come home with bruises, bite marks, black eye, she was punched & kicked, had numerous items thrown at her , knocked down the list goes on!

I agree that these children need to be cared for but their caregivers/need some proceedure/guidlines on how to handle the unruly ones.

The other problem is that most of these small rural district para/educators are paid $7-8 per hour with litterally no training. There would be one special needs "teacher" that would cover a counties 20-25 schools.

I hope they come up with something that works.

salad 11 years, 2 months ago

"Children could be held in place with...magnets!" -Principle Skinner (Simpsons)

salad 11 years, 2 months ago

what do they know? Share the good word brother.

traveler62 11 years, 2 months ago

What has the never ending debate between creation and evolution got to do with guidelines of restraint for unruly students? Focus people. However bd is right. The staff at various schools across the state are being literally beaten up, and often have no recourse but to accept it as part of the job or resign. I to hope that they can come up with something that will protect BOTH the students and the teachers/pareeductors.

michaelis 11 years, 2 months ago

The daughter of a close friend of mine was locked in one of these seclusion rooms for over an hour. The girl was in the first grade and this happened 2 or 3 years ago. The room was more of a janitor's closet with exposed wires, cleaning supplies, paint, paint thinner, and only one small window. When the mom protested, the principle and school administration told her that they had every right to place a 6 year girl in a room like this - no matter how unsafe. The girl was not violent at all, but had HDHD and was hyperactive. This is the way our Lawrence school system deals with this. A child locked in a closet with all this flamable material, and they thought that was okay.

Confrontation 11 years, 2 months ago

Many of these kids get their behavioral problems from their parents and the lack of supervision/appropriate punishment. Why not hold the parents in a small, dimly lit room for several hours? Put ten or eleven of them in there. Take away their cells and video games. Then, just when they can't take it anymore, throw their kids in with them! That'll show the parents how their crappy attempt at raising children has stressed the school system.

costello 11 years, 2 months ago

Part I.

I attended the public hearing on this issue on Tuesday. Several speakers pointed out that there is less use of restraint/seclusion in residential treatment centers than there used to be, because it has been found that positive behavior supports are more effective in controlling negative behaviors.

Others pointed out that some schools are using seclusion for discipline, coercion, or convenience of staff. Seclusion/restraint should only be used for safety issues. One parent's young child was put in the seclusion room for an hour and a half because one of the ten worksheets he brought home the previous evening wasn't completed. This worksheet wasn't completed because neither of his parents could figure it out. Why is it ok to lock a special ed student in a room for an hour and a half for failing to complete an assignment? How would you react if this happened to your child?

eb: One issue raised at the hearing was training of staff. Apparently putting children in restraint holds can cause injury or death. Staff at other institutions using these techniques are trained regularly in their safe use.

Another issue mentioned briefly was the stress these techniques have on the staff who have to use them. As you pointed out, some of these paras are making very little money and dealing with children with behavior problems is high stress. A more positive approach tends to elicit better behavior from these children. This would make a happier, more pleasant environment for staff and students. Notice that the parent in the article pointed out that when they moved their son to a different school district, his extreme behaviors ended. How staff and teachers react to the behaviors often has a huge impact on whether an incident escalates or calms down.

costello 11 years, 2 months ago

Part II.

Several of the parents at the hearing brought their young children with them to the meeting. (This was the day of the snow storm, and schools were out.) Not one of these "uncontrollable" children caused the slightest disturbance, despite sitting through a "boring" hour and a half meeting.

My son is a special ed student in the Lawrence school district who has emotional and behavioral problems and has been put in seclusion. By the teacher's description, putting him in the "time out room" tends to escalate his problem. He yells and kicks at the doors and the walls until the ceiling starts flaking down. I don't understand why they continue to use the time out room, given the fact that it makes his behavior worse not better.

And, Confrontation, my son was recently adopted from foster care as a teenager. So, no, he didn't get his problems from my "crappy attempt at raising children." You should be careful how you judge people. Some of the children that the public schools are dealing with in the classroom now are kids who would have been sent to institutions or special schools in the past. They have a variety of problems including serious mental illnesses like bipolar and schizophrenia. Blaming their parents is wrong and pointless.

Personally, I would rather my son be in a school designed to handle his special needs. But the law compels the schools to put disabled children in the "least restrictive environment." While he's there, I would rather the school not do more damage to him by escalating his behaviors and putting him in situations that remind him of the abuse he received as a child.

bd 11 years, 2 months ago

My wife commented that a lot of these children needed more than what the school could offer. She said that some of the kids should be going to Cappers in Topeka or somewhere where they could get the attention of "real" proffesionals that are trained in helping these kids.

The "no child left behind" is leaving a lot of these special needs children behind!

costello 11 years, 2 months ago

lol, sorry, bd. I called you "eb" in my message. You're right about education laws. I'm angry with the school right now. But I also have some sympathy for their problem. They seem to be so overloaded with legislation and regulation - all of it well-intended, I think - that their job seems to be impossible now. My son's special ed teacher is awash in paperwork. And now they want/need to add regulations for restraint/seclusion and bullying (another topic in today's paper). Those would require staff and teachers to be familiar with even MORE regulations and fill out MORE paperwork. Meantime, I just want my son to be safe at school and not be traumatized by people who don't understand his issues and don't have the time to learn about them. :-(

james bush 11 years, 2 months ago

What would Jesus do? OOps! wrong board ( BOE, that is) to ask! Appeasing the bullies will probably work for libs and keep the aclu off the BOE's case!

james bush 11 years, 2 months ago

OOPs! again.................wrong article, sorry! Meant for "Bullies" piece.

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