Thousands of children are secluded or restrained in America’s public and private schools each year, including hundreds of cases where the techniques are allegedly abusive or cause death, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Nearly all of the allegedly abusive cases involve children with disabilities, the report says.

The report comes at the request of Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., following a January report on the practice from the National Disability Rights Network. That report found dozens of cases of students suffering injury or death resulting from restraint or seclusion.

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Although the GAO report did not determine whether instances of death or abuse are widespread, it did find that there are currently no federal laws governing the practice and that state laws, where in existence, vary wildly.

The government report specifically looked at 10 cases involving school staff members who were convicted of criminal wrongdoing, found liable in a civil or administrative proceeding or in which a financial settlement was paid as the result of an allegation of abusive restraint or seclusion. Cases included a 7-year old girl who died after being held face down for hours and children kept in dark rooms or prevented from going to the bathroom. Other instances included teachers gagging and putting tape over the mouths of students or using bungee cords to tie children to chairs.

All of the 10 cases involved students with disabilities and in many cases the staff involved were not trained to use the techniques they were employing. Furthermore in many of these cases, parents had not given consent for seclusion and restraint to be used with their children. Staff members from at least five of these cases are currently still employed in schools.

“What they found is alarming, eye opening and it is going to send shock waves into every corner of this country,” Miller said of the GAO report at a meeting of the House Education and Labor Committee, which he chairs, on Tuesday. “School is a place for students to learn, grow and thrive… Yet some educators are misusing behavioral interventions — interventions that were intended only to be used in emergencies as a last resort — for discipline or convenience in non-emergency situations.”

To read the full GAO report click here.


Previous stories on this topic:

Abuse Restraint And Seclusion Tactics Widespread, Report Indicates (May 6, 2009)

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)

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