Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pledged to have a “real clear plan” in place in every state for handling restraint and seclusion at the start of the school year. Now, halfway through the year, officials say information will be released in the coming weeks.
Last May, a Government Accountability Office report found hundreds of cases of abusive and even deadly incidents of restraint and seclusion in the nation’s schools, most of which involved students with disabilities.
Within days, Duncan told members of the House Education and Labor Committee that safety was a top priority. “I want to make sure that at the start of the next school year that every state has a real clear plan as to how to do this in a way that makes sense and that doesn’t jeopardize, doesn’t endanger children,” he said regarding restraint and seclusion.
Since that time, the Department of Education has yet to publicly release any information on state policies for seclusion and restraint. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion >>)
“It’s always ‘in the works, in the works’ and that’s been the case all fall and all winter,” says Jane Hudson, a staff attorney at the National Disability Rights Network, whose report on restraint and seclusion prompted congressional interest in the issue. “Our feeling is publish what you have and what you’ve received from the states and let parents and advocates see.”
Now, under pressure from Disability Scoop, representatives of the Department of Education say information about state laws, regulations, policies and guidelines for restraint and seclusion will be released within weeks.
“The department intends to make the information available to the general public on the department’s Web site by February 12, 2010. The information will be updated as states develop or revise policies and guidelines on the use of seclusion and restraints to ensure that all students are safe and protected,” Sandra Abrevaya, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, wrote in an e-mail.
However, the delay is leaving parents like Phyllis Musumeci angry.
“It shouldn’t have taken this long,” says Musumeci who founded Families Against Restraint and Seclusion after her son Christian, now 17, was restrained at least 89 times by staff at his Boynton Beach, Fla. school before she found out. “It should be up to somebody in his (Duncan’s) position to step up and do the right thing.”