Students with disabilities are much more likely than other kids to be restrained or secluded at school, but how often the techniques are used varies significantly, a new report finds.

Wealthier, less diverse schools employ the tactics more than twice as often as high-poverty, high-diversity school districts, according to an analysis of federal data conducted by researchers at the University of New Hampshire.

Nationwide, there were 2.6 cases of restraint for every 100 students with disabilities during the 2009-2010 school year compared to 0.1 instances for every 100 typically-developing students, researchers found. Seclusion followed similar patterns.

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Despite the high numbers, most of the nation’s schools reported no use of restraint or seclusion during that time while a small number of districts had “exceedingly high rates,” the report indicated.

“It may be the case that the small proportion of school districts with very high rates of restraint and seclusion enroll students with particularly challenging behaviors, thus driving up rates in these districts. However, it strikes us as very likely that practitioner response and school attitudes toward student behavior play strong roles when determining whether or not to restrain or seclude students,” researchers from the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute wrote.

The new analysis is based on data from the U.S. Department of Education and the Census Bureau. It follows a handful of government and disability advocacy group reports in recent years highlighting numerous cases of abusive and even deadly incidents of the practices. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion »)

At present, laws governing the use of restraint and seclusion in schools differ from state to state and efforts to enact federal standards have been unsuccessful.

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