First-ever national data released Tuesday indicates that students with disabilities are significantly more likely than others to be restrained at school.

The new statistics come from a survey of 72,000 schools, representing 85 percent of the nation’s students, that was conducted by the U.S. Department of Education.

In all, 38,792 of the students represented in the survey were physically restrained by an adult at school during the 2009-2010 academic year. The vast majority of those restrained — 69 percent — had disabilities, even though students with special needs made up just 12 percent of the survey sample.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

This is the first time that information on restraint and seclusion was solicited as part of the Education Department’s regular civil rights data collection. The government agency began releasing findings this week broken down by location as well as some results from the national sample. However, a full picture from across the country is not expected for another month, officials said.

In addition to the disproportionate use of restraint on students with disabilities, the Education Department data indicated that boys are more likely than girls to be subject to restraint and seclusion. What’s more, students from some racial groups were more frequently subject to the disciplinary tactics.

Meanwhile, students with disabilities were more than twice as likely to receive out-of-school suspensions as compared to their typically developing peers, the survey found.

The findings were released the same day disability advocates at the National Disability Rights Network issued a report blasting the Education Department for failing to do more to rein in the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

The organization first brought concerns about the tactics to the forefront in 2009 with a report that found dozens of cases of injury and even death resulting from the practices.

Since that time, members of Congress have attempted to pass legislation to limit restraint and seclusion in schools, but to no avail. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion ยป)

“(The Department of Education) has not provided any meaningful leadership to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion — despite the fact that students are continuing to be confined, tied up, pinned down, battered and nearly killed on a regular basis,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, in the organization’s latest report.

The group is urging federal education officials to issue “strong national guidance” to schools about the use of restraint and seclusion much like they have done to address concerns about bullying.

Last year, Alexa Posny, the Education Department’s top special education official indicated that such guidance would be forthcoming, but it has yet to be released.

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.