The New York Department of Education suggests limited restrictions

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ALBANY — In response to an investigation by the Union Times into how often children are restrained in school, the state Department of Education has proposed a “clarification” and Add borders about how and when students may be physically restrained or placed in isolation.

Among the Times Union’s findings that led to the proposal: State investigators learned that in schools serving children with disabilities, students were physically restrained in violation of existing state rules, proving 214 such cases between 2016 and 2021. Such restrictions were allowed on an “emergency basis,” but data obtained by the Times Union shows that they are used regularly—often several times a school day—by private and state-run schools that are approved to serve students with intellectual, developmental, or Big emotional.

Some students were put into temporary rooms dozens of times a month. In a few cases, students were restricted more than 100 times a month.

The proposal focused on reducing the use of restraint and isolation, but stressed that corporal punishment was already prohibited. The Times Union also found that hundreds of cases of corporal punishment in schools have been proven in recent years, including cases where students were slapped, slapped, choked, pulled and intimidated with a belt.

The board of governors heard the motion regarding the restraint and isolation changes on Monday. After a 60-day public comment period, the board will vote on July 23. The new rules include prohibitions on restraint and isolation, while allowing for restraint or a time-out if there is an “imminent” threat to someone. Damage to property is not counted.

In addition, the changes require same-day notification to parents, reports after each restriction listing previously used de-escalation techniques, and a meeting with administrators after each restriction to discuss how to avoid this in the future.

The umpires’ members, many of whom have worked in the schools themselves, said the issue was more about proper training and support than the need for more rules.

“They (teachers) want to fit in with these very important constraints,” said Frances Wells, Member Regent. “It should include training and real training.”

Misconduct has risen dramatically since the lockdown, and she said teachers are quitting because of it.

Others said it’s not as simple as it sounds, avoid touching a child when they’re behaving strangely.

“You have a seven-year-old who has impulsive behaviors, and you try to talk them down…it never works,” said Regents’ Susan Mettler. “Meanwhile, he threw a chair, and bit someone.”

I recently noticed a classroom in which a kid went into the hallway and hung himself from the outside of the stairwell railing, holding his legs dangling. Another worker told the teacher not to touch the child.

“I grabbed him by the belt loop,” Mettler said, and lifted him to the ground. “I think she acted in the best interest of the child.”
The proposed changes would require extensive training, but she said psychologists and counselors are needed.

“These rules (limiting restraint) are great, but there is no support. There is only one psychologist for 500 students,” she said. “We need to let teachers know what to do with this student…so that child can be dealt with appropriately .”

It would be best if the counselor was at the school, and available to help, said Christine C., a member of Regent’s.

“We really need counselors and school psychologists to help the teachers,” she said. “Not only in school for one hour.”

Similarly, Regents member Roger Catania noted that sometimes a child would be on the verge of harming themselves or others. He indicated that restraint would still be permissible in those cases.

“Sometimes you have few options,” he said. “I’m glad the options are there.”

He emphasized that training would be expensive. When he trained staff in de-escalation and other such techniques, the program was three to five days long. This means either hiring replacements or paying employees over the summer.

“It’s quite a challenge, especially with the number of people you need to train. That’s a heavy load,” he said. “It’s an important challenge. It must be terminated.”

But he said the ministry should put pressure on the state to fund it.