Did you know...?
In schools all around Michigan, children as young as kindergartners are shut in closet-sized rooms, alone, and not allowed to leave. These kids typically have a "fight, flight, or freeze" stress response - some of them cry for their parents, try to fight their way out, shut down, or even urinate while they are inside. These rooms are given misleading names like "time away room," "quiet room," "reset room," or "calm room." This practice should be illegal in Michigan.
What are seclusion and restraint?
Seclusion and restraint are crisis management strategies that are used in many schools across the nation and the world. These interventions are dangerous and have led to serious injuries in students, teachers, and staff, and even student deaths.
What is seclusion?
Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a child in a room or other space from which the child is prevented from leaving. Typically, children are left alone (solitary confinement), but it is considered seclusion even when the child is with adults. According to the Michigan Department of Education Policy on the Emergency Use of Seclusion and Restraint, seclusion should generally last no longer than 15 minutes for elementary students and 20 minutes for older students, students should not be deprived of basic needs, and "Seclusion is intended for the purposes of emergency situations only, in which a pupil’s behavior poses imminent risk to the safety of the individual pupil or to the safety of others" and should not be used in place of appropriate less restrictive interventions. The legal definition of imminent risk is "an immediate and impending threat of a person causing substantial physical injury to self or others." The legal definition of substantial physical injury includes "deep cuts and serious burns or abrasions; short-term or nonobvious disfigurement; fractured or dislocated bones, or torn members of the body; significant physical pain; illness; short-term loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty; or any other significant injury to the body." Seclusion is being used in Michigan schools when these requirements are not being met. Often seclusion is used on elementary school children as young as kindergarten. In addition, there is no evidence that seclusion improves behavior, is evidence that it can cause physical and psychological harm, and there are always other less restrictive interventions available. There is no safe seclusion and therefore, it should not be legal for use in schools.
What is restraint?
Physical restraint means using physical contact to prevent or significantly restrict a child's movement. This is typically done using Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) holds. According to the Michigan Department of Education Policy on the Emergency Use of Seclusion and Restraint, restraint does not include the brief holding of a pupil to calm or comfort, the the minimum contact necessary to physically escort a pupil from one area to another, the minimum contact necessary to assist a pupil in completing a task or response if the pupil does not resist or resistance is minimal in intensity or duration, or the holding of a pupil for a brief time in order to prevent an impulsive behavior that threatens the pupil’s immediate safety, such as running in front of a car. Restraint should generally last no longer than 10 minutes, and like seclusion, "Physical restraint is intended for the purposes of emergency situations only, in which a pupil’s behavior poses imminent risk to the safety of the individual pupil or to the safety of others" and should not be used in place of other appropriate less restrictive interventsions. Please see the legal definition of imminant risk in the anser to "What is seclusion?" above. Restraint is being used in Michigan schools when these requirements are not being met. Often restraint is used on elementary school children as young as kindergarten. In addition, there is no evidence that restraint improves behavior while there is evidence that it can cause physical and psychological harm. There is no safe restraint and therefore, it should not be legal for use in schools beyond the exceptions that are not considered emergency restraint according to the Michigan policy.
What is the problem?
"Studies have shown that the use of seclusion and restraint can result in psychological harm, physical injuries, and death to both the people subjected to and the staff applying these techniques. Injury rates to staff in mental health settings that use seclusion and restraint have been found to be higher than injuries sustained by workers in high-risk industries. Restraints can be harmful and often re-traumatizing for people, especially those who have trauma histories." - US Department of Health and Human Services - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
“The data tells us that seclusion and restraint practices in school are dangerous, ineffective and predominately used against kids of color and students with disabilities. These practices leave traumatic, and sometimes fatal, fingerprints on those affected, and we need to stop them."
Chris Murphy - Connecticut Senator
Misconceptions About the Need for Seclusion and Restraint
There are so many misconceptions out there leading lawmakers, community members, parents, school leaders, and even teachers to believe that the use of emergency seclusion and restraint are necessary to keep our students and school staff members safe. In reality, seclusion and restraint are outdated interventions that came from a time when much less was understood about the developing brain, the neuroscience of behavior, trauma, and before the current, more effective, more humane, and safer systems of helping children work through difficult behavior were developed. Using seclusion and restraint actually makes schools less safe both for students and for educators.
Support for Our Teachers
Our teachers are hard working people who have dedicated their careers to the education of our children. They work in extremely stressful, demanding environments that are understaffed and under resourced. Seclusion and restraint are techniques that they use when they don't know what else to do. If we take away their ability to use seclusion and restraint, then what?
If teachers are getting to a point where they don't know what else to do, then they are working without the knowledge and resources that they need to succeed in their environment. We give them the knowledge and resources that they need. It is out there.
Laws and Policies
While there are currently no federal laws governing the use of seclusion and restraint, the U.S. Department of education does provide a seclusion and restraint resource document. In in introduction letter, it states, "As many reports have documented, the use of restraint and seclusion can have very serious consequences, including, most tragically, death. Furthermore, there continues to be no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective in reducing the occurrence of the problem behaviors that frequently precipitate the use of such techniques. Schools must do everything possible to ensure all children can learn, develop, and participate in instructional programs that promote high levels of academic achievement. To accomplish this, schools must make every effort to structure safe environments and provide a behavioral framework, such as the use of positive behavior interventions and supports, that applies to all children, all staff, and all places in the school so that restraint and seclusion techniques are unnecessary." - U.S. Department of Education, Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document, Washington, D.C., 2012
"In December 2016, the state of Michigan adopted Public Act 394 of 2016 restricting the use of seclusion and restraint in schools. On March 14, 2017, the State Board of Education (SBE) adopted the Policy for the Emergency Use of Seclusion and Restraint as required by MCL 380.1307." - legislature.mi.gov
Local school boards also have the ability to create their own policies around seclusion and restraint, as long as they are within the Michigan law. If you want to know if your school has it's own policy, you can ask the administrators at your local school or school board members. If your district does not have it's own policies, you can write a letter urging them to create policies to keep students and teachers safe. There are lots of sample letters and legislation out there to use as reference.
"We believe that civil rights and human rights should not vary from state to state." - Alliance Against Seclusion & Restraint