KGK attorney Hope Kirsch has been instrumental in the passage of Arizona's first legislation addressing seclusion in schools, and that legislation became law in 2013 with A.R.S. 15-843 requiring, for the first time, notification to parents whose children have been placed in seclusion rooms. But that was just the beginning. Now the Arizona legislature has the opportunity to expand on that legislation, requiring more accountability by schools (public schools and charter schools) before placing students in restraint or seclusion, limiting restraint and seclusion to instances of students engaging behavior that presents an imminent danger to serious physical harm to themselves and others, and providing more detail to parents in the notice to them that their child was restrained and/or secluded.
What you can do: Please write to your Senator http://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster.asp?Body=S and request they support the Bill. Here is some background on the Bill:
SB 1459 Summary: Restraint and Seclusion In School
1. The 2009 publication of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled “Seclusion and Restraint: Cases of Death and Abuse in Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers” (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09719t.pdf) increased Arizonan’s awareness of the dangers of using seclusion and restraint on students in public schools. GAO findings include:
· Students were injured or suffocated to death as a result of these procedures.
· Some of these restraints were imposed for non-dangerous behaviors such as non-compliance.
· The true extent of the problem was within states and across states was not known.
2. Since the GAO report publication, some states have passed laws that created meaningful protections against the dangerous and unnecessary use of such restraints. (http://projects.propublica.org/graphics/mapping-state-policies-on-student-restraint). Common among these protections:
· The use of restraint or seclusion must be used only in cases of imminent danger.
· Staff is trained in effective and safe crisis prevention/intervention.
· Incident reporting be conducted and reviewed.
· Informed decisions will be used to prevent future instances when possible.
· Evidence-based procedures will be used to create positive school climates and prevent behavior problems.
3. In response to the GAO report, Governor Brewer called for a special task force (July 2009) to look into creating policy for schools. The resulting task force policy for school districts governing boards were to either modify the given policy or adopt as is by June 2010. (http://www.azed.gov/special-education/task-force-best-practices/).
4. To date the only data available on the incidence of restraint and seclusion among Arizona students is available through the Department of Education (http://ocrdata.ed.gov/). The report shows the following for the 2011/2012 school year:
· While 12% of all students are students with disabilities, 75% of all students who were physically restrained were students with disabilities.
· 58% of all students who were secluded were students with disabilities.
· 25% of all students who were arrested on campus were students with disabilities.
5. However, these data are likely to be incomplete as the three largest school districts in the country (Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York) reported zero (0) incidents of either seclusion and restraint (http://www.propublica.org/getinvolved/item/reporting-recipe-investigating-restraint-and-seclusion-in-us-schools), and in Arizona only 11% of all schools reported any incidence of restraint and a little more than 3% reported any instance of seclusion (http://ocrdata.ed.gov/DistrictSchoolSearch#districtSearch).
6. SB 1459 provides protections for all students against the dangerous and unnecessary use of restraint or seclusion by mandating selected minimum requirements of public, charter and private schools:
A. Restraint and Seclusion should be used only in the case of imminent danger of serious physical injury to the pupil or others,
B. Less restrictive interventions have been deemed insufficient to mitigate the danger, (i.e., de-escalation techniques, positive behavior supports)
C. If restraint or seclusion are used, the student is observed closely to prevent harm,
D. If restraint or seclusion are used, they are ended when the threat of imminent danger subsides,
E. If restraint or seclusion are used, the staff has been trained in safe and effective restraint and seclusion techniques, (CPI)
F. If restraint or seclusion are used, they do not impede the student’s ability to breath or communicate, (i.e., prone restraint).
G. If restraint or seclusion are used, they are not out of proportion to the danger, age or physical condition of the student,
H. If restraint or seclusion are used, parents are informed the same day of the incident, (parents should not be denied access to their child’s education)
I. If restraint or seclusion are used, the behavior and circumstances, as well as the staff responses are documented, (SAIS reporting, data collection)
J. If restraint or seclusion are used, a debriefing is conducted to make informed decisions about preventing possible future incidents, (FBA/BIP)
K. If law enforcement are summoned in lieu of restraint or seclusion, that the same documentation and debriefing occur.