Disability advocates are on the offensive after a national group representing school administrators issued a report supporting the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

The report released last week from the American Association of School Administrators argues that having the option to utilize restraint or seclusion when students are in danger of harming themselves or others allows schools to include students who would otherwise be institutionalized.

“School administrators and school personnel are not conspiring to harm children. We want to work together with parents to create an environment where all children can learn. These are tools that help us do that job,” said Daniel Domenech, the group’s executive director.

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The report includes anecdotes from parents of children with disabilities who insist that their kids would not be able to attend public schools if restraint and seclusion were not available to control outbursts. It also highlights results from a survey of school administrators which found that 30 percent of school districts have had five or more staff members hospitalized in recent years due to student behavioral outbursts.

Restraint and seclusion is highly controversial, however, with a number of disability advocacy groups in addition to the federal government documenting hundreds of cases of allegedly abusive and even deadly uses of the practices in schools. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion ยป)

Accordingly, the new report advocating the merits of the techniques is yielding significant backlash from disability advocates who have pressed Congress for years to enact federal legislation limiting restraint and seclusion.

In response to the report, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities — a coalition of some 100 disability organizations — is launching a letter writing campaign. They’re urging advocates to contact members of Congress to denounce the findings and encourage support of proposed legislation governing restraint and seclusion in schools.

“While AASA promotes the use of these techniques in ’emergency’ situations, restraint and seclusion by school personnel are most often used for convenience and punishment, not for emergencies,” the disability advocacy group TASH said in a statement. “Tragically, students die each year in public schools due to restraint and seclusion.”

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