Two Virginia Schools Guilty of Overusing Restraints, Seclusion

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The federal education department’s Office of Civil Rights has determined that two Virginia schools for students with emotional or behavioral problems have been inappropriately using restraints and isolation as routine “one-size fits all” responses to disruptive behaviors, reports ProPublica. At one of the schools, nearly 40% of the students were subjected to restraints or seclusion in 2012 alone. The complaint that started the investigation involved a teenager struggling with severe depression and anxiety, the teen’s lawyer told ProPublica. It’s part of a nationwide trend in schools that ProPublica says federal legislators are resisting cracking down on.

ProPublica previously reported that students nationwide — often those facing mental health challenges — were restrained or secluded more than 267,000 times in the 2012 school year. “Our analysis of federal data revealed that despite a near-consensus that the risky practices should be used rarely, some schools rely on them regularly — even daily — to control children… Hundreds of students have been injured — some seriously — as a result.”

ProPublica noted that, “Despite the frequent use of restraints and seclusion, the two schools [in Virginia] and the district had reported zero instances of either practice to federal data collectors.”

Federal Investigators Crack Down on Two Virginia Schools’ Use of Restraints (ProPublica, August 11, 2014)

Violent and Legal: The Shocking Ways School Kids are Being Pinned Down, Isolated Against Their Will (ProPublica, June 19, 2014)

10 COMMENTS

  1. Using restraints at school is anyway some sick idea. Nobody at school should have such an authority. If a kid is small and you can’t deal with him or her the normal way maybe you should not be a teacher. If it’s a teen who can be dangerous then you call appropriate authority. It’s absolutely disgusting that things like that are happening.

  2. “Despite the frequent use of restraints and seclusion, the two schools [in Virginia] and the district had reported zero instances of either practice to federal data collectors.”

    What they don’t know, can’t hurt us.

    Standard Operating Procedure, if the abuse isn’t documented, it never happened. Sure I’m not the only one who has seen this in practice. I agree with copy_cat that the alternative would probably be a chemical straight jacket unfortunately.

    • “if the abuse isn’t documented, it never happened”
      Given that my hospital documents are made of lies and omissions (of such medically insignificant details like drug doses and names) I can attest to this being 100% true statement. I wonder why so few people ever sue them.

      • You know B I really just don’t get why there aren’t lawyers crawling all over the mental health services here. The levels of criminality and negligence are astounding.

        I did speak to one lawyer who explained to me that as soon as she hears the words mental health she writes it off before even speaking to the person. I asked her why, and she said that she got “burned” badly by a claim for negligence. I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t the fact that any lawyer who did take on the mental health services would be at risk of being subjected to involuntary detention and forced medication. Or is it the ease with which victims can be further victimised?

        I can think of no other reasons. It’s not like they even hide their criminality or negligence very well here. I suppose it could change very quickly if lawyers figured out how much money was to be made from negligence claims.

        Imagine that, the most abused members of our respective societies having access to advocates. Wow, might even have the few rights we should be enjoying enforced. Oh well, I can dream, though I do need to be careful about these thoughts of rights for self and others.

        • “any lawyer who did take on the mental health services would be at risk of being subjected to involuntary detention and forced medication”
          I think it’s simpler than that. Lawyer reputation relies on the cases he/she won and sometimes the style in which that was accomplished. In the current system it’s almost impossible to win: the victim is considered unreliable witness from the get go, the “professionals” are in effective control of the evidence (medical records) and can lose the/fix them any way they want, there’s solidarity within the medical profession which makes it almost impossible to find an expert to testify against the doctor… should I go on? Plus it’s not a case you can brag about even if you win – who cares about mental cases, it’s much more “sexy” to take on LGBT issues, police brutality or race or something else that is widely publicised if you really want a “risky case”. So why would any lawyer risk his/her career in diving into this pool of mud?

  3. I just finished reading An American’s Resurrection by Mr. Eric Arauz. This chronicles his first-hand experience as a veteran being held in restraints for over 24 hrs.

    His account of his times in restraints is so vivid that it made me physically sick. He now has a Medical School faculty appointment and is trying to change this practice. Any examination of this topic is inchoate without his book.

    Dr. Michael Rice endowed chair at U of Colorado school of Nursing uses it as the pinnacle example of the agony of the experience. Mr. Arauz is an international speaker on this and other mental health issues.

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