In more than 70 percent of cases where abusive interventions were used with children with disabilities at school, parents did not consent to seclusion and restraint tactics, according to a report released this week by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA).

The report is based on a national survey by the group of parents, advocates and attorneys who advocate for appropriate educational services for those with disabilities. The survey conducted in March and April 2009 uncovered 143 cases of abusive uses of restraint and seclusion.

Reports included cases of children tied to chairs, locked in rooms and forced to endure pain and humiliation. Some children were physically hurt when large individuals restrained them and others were denied basic needs like using the bathroom.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Most cases of abuse occurred in segregated classrooms, which only serve students with disabilities. And the overwhelming majority of students involved in such incidents did not have research-based positive behavioral intervention plans in place.

Cases included students with all types of disabilities including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, developmental delay, emotional disturbance, mental retardation and learning disabilities. In 84 percent of cases the student involved was under the age of 14.

The report asks Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the use of prone restraints, any restraint that impairs breathing and mechanical and chemical restraints in addition to several limits on the scenarios under which restraint and seclusion would be acceptable.

The COPAA report follows a January report from the National Disability Rights Network, which outlined dozens of cases of physical and emotional injuries, including death, stemming from schools’ use of restraint and seclusion.

Currently, a report on the issue of restraint and seclusion in schools is being prepared for Congress by the Government Accountability Office. Once complete, Congress is expected to hold a hearing on the issue.

The full COPAA report titled “Unsafe in the Schoolhouse: Abuse of Children with Disabilities” can be found by clicking here.


Previous stories on this topic:

Government Report On Seclusion, Restraint Expected Soon (April 17, 2009)

Congressman Wants Answers On School Restraint And Seclusion (January 27, 2009)

Schools’ Restraint And Seclusion Tactics Cause Injury, Death, Report Says (January 14, 2009)

Read more stories like this one. Sign up for Disability Scoop's free email newsletter to get the latest developmental disability news sent straight to your inbox.