Ethical Issues around the Use of Restraints and Seclusion in Schools (ON DEMAND)

Ethical Issues around the Use of Restraints and Seclusion in Schools (ON DEMAND)

Government reports and popular media stories indicate widespread misuse of restraint/seclusion of students with autism and other developmental disabilities. Several reasons may explain the overreliance on these methods. First, many schools inadvertently use restraint/seclusion as behavior management interventions. Research literature in the behavioral sciences indicates that repeated use of restraint/seclusion may inadvertently reinforce severe behavior dependent upon the function of the behavior. In this way, it is clear that these methods should not be used as intervention procedures, but only be applied when the student's behavior reaches crisis levels. Second, an instance of restraint/seclusion should signal to intervention team members that other highly specialized interventions and supports are needed. However, many schools may not have proper behavior support plans in place that teach and reinforce new skills/behaviors to replace problem behaviors that lead to restraint/seclusion.

The use of restraint/seclusion in the public school system has gained more attention as families, advocates, and the federal government have taken action to guide and monitor the use of these methods in public schools. Legal precedent for the use of restraint/seclusion in the public schools has been established (McAfee, Schwilk, & Mitruski, 2006). The use of restraint/seclusion to keep a child and others safe is not prohibited by law, or under the same constitutional restrictions as institutions. Indeed, school personnel are expected to keep children safe and may need to use restraint to do so. School personnel are subject to criminal and civil liability if restraints are misused. The purpose of this paper is to present issues related to the use of restraint and seclusion in the schools, provide an overview of the data on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, discuss state polices on restraint and seclusion discuss the literature to support the use of ABA to reduce the use of restraint and seclusions, review the BACB®/CEC Guidelines as supports for BCBA®s and provide guiding questions that IEP teams can use to assess their use of restraints/seclusion procedures.

Ethical Issues around the Use of Restraints and Seclusion in Schools

Duration: 102 minutes


Peggy Schaefer Whitby is an associate professor at the University of Arkansas and serves as the program coordinator for special education. Her research interests are in the area of implementing evidence-based practices and sexuality education. She currently works on several state and federally funded projects to help families access evidence based services in rural areas.

Dr. Schaefer Whitby has multiple publications in peer-reviewed journals including Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, Journal of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, and Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.

Most importantly, Dr. Schaefer Whitby is passionate about the education of children with autism and developmental disabilities. She believes that school is the great equalizer as it provides access to evidence based services for all children. People with disabilities deserve access to education so that they can reach their highest potential and be inclusive members of society.

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