National data confirm cases of restraint and seclusion in public schools

Friday, June 20, 2014

The practice of secluding or restraining children when they get agitated has long been a controversial practice in public schools. Now, new data show that it's more common than previously understood, happening at least 267,000 times in a recent school year.

NPR worked with reporters from the investigative journalism group ProPublica, who compiled data from the U.S. Department of Education to come up with one of the clearest looks at the practice of seclusion and restraint.

In most cases, the practice is used with students with disabilities — usually with those who have autism or are labeled emotionally disturbed. Sometimes the students will get upset; they might even get violent. To calm or control them, teachers and aides might isolate them in a separate room, which is a practice known as seclusion. Or they might restrain them by holding or hugging them, or pinning them to the ground, or by using mechanical restraints, such as a belt or even handcuffs.

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