More than a time out: Report shows seclusion, restraint happening more than you might think in schools

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MADISON -- When your child gets in trouble at school, it can be a scary situation -- especially if they're secluded or restrained.

Ameer Tahir

Ameer Tahir

This is different from a simple time out. We're talking about students being pinned down against their will at school, or locked in rooms. A new report shows this is happening more than you'd think in classrooms in Wisconsin.

"I get so frustrated," Ameer Tahir said.

10-year-old Ameer has "Prader-Willi" disorder -- a rare, genetic condition.

Saira Tahir, Ameer's mom, knew her son was having some behavioral problems at school.

Saira Tahir

Saira Tahir

"He was frustrated because he couldn`t communicate," Saira Tahir said.

What she didn't know is that Ameer's teachers were locking him in a room by himself, and physically restraining him.

"I just couldn't believe it. They could have broken his bone, his clavicle bone," Saira Tahir said.

School records show Ameer was restrained 14 times.

"It was traumatizing," Saira Tahir said.

Ameer Tahir

Ameer Tahir

Ameer's doctor wrote a letter to the school, verifying that teachers had caused bruises.

"He still is a little boy at this point," Saira Tahir said.

Ameer Tahir

Ameer Tahir

Ameer's mom isn't alone in her frustration.

"My son Chase was only five years old," Rebekah Pitsch said.

Parents came together in Madison on Tuesday, February 9th to call for change when it comes to the ways some public schools are treating children with disabilities.

"When we use words like 'restraint' and 'seclusion' it's easy not to really understand what's going on. Dragging disabled children through the class and halls and locking them in a room? When do we start to consider it abuse?" Marcia Dewey said.

Parents call for change in the way public schools treat children with disabilities

Parents call for change in the way public schools treat children with disabilities

A report released this week suggests school districts across the state are still restraining and secluding children -- even though the methods aren't supposed to be used unless there's a real danger to safety.

"So a kid throwing a pencil, or having a behavior, or running around the school, those are not reasons to use these techniques," Sally Flaschberger, lead advocacy specialist at Disability Rights Wisconsin said.

But during the 2013-2014 school year, there were more than 20,000 incidents of seclusion and restraint in Wisconsin public schools involving more than 3,500 children -- and most of them had disabilities.

Seclusion and restraint in public schools in Wisconsin

Seclusion and restraint in public schools in Wisconsin

"I think that's part of the concern -- are they using it inappropriately?" Flaschberger said.

In Madison recently, a student with autism was restrained and handcuffed during an anxiety attack.

Desperate for change, Ameer Tahir's family sold their home and moved to a new school district for their son's safety.

Seclusion and restraint in public schools in Wisconsin

Seclusion and restraint in public schools in Wisconsin

"He had to leave his friends. He would wake up in the night and say 'I miss so and so' and 'I miss so and so' and I`m like, you know, 'I can`t send you back,'" Saira Tahir said.

Now, they're trying to move forward and they can only hope what happened to Ameer doesn't happen again.

"My son was able to articulate and tell me exactly what was going on. There are some children in there, they don`t even know what`s going on," Saira Tahir said.

If you're a parent, you're supposed to be notified by your school within 24 hours after your student has been secluded or restrained. You are also entitled to see a written report about what happened.

Seclusion and restraint in public schools in Wisconsin

Seclusion and restraint in public schools in Wisconsin

5 comments

  • Jus sayin..

    I think mental challenges extend to all kids of races not just some races but in comparison if this had been a black child misbehaving in school it would most likely have resulted in expulsion but when other kids misbehave their “challenged”. The truth of the matter is that mental challenges exists in all races of children. In example, the story posted about the young black boy beaten out of his clothes and left to die for attempting to steal a car. Alot of you cast stones but i read the story as telling me that that boy was also mentally challenged because a healthy mind does not engage in his alleged activities but if the social and mental ills of society are not addressed appropriately and accurately the kids will continue to do “crazy things”…

    • Fred

      I agree, all races have children with mental disabilities and should be treated equally, but many of the kids these days don’t have mental disabilities and are just plain defiant and unruly….must be something in the water. When I was young you were taught to behave and listen to your elders without sass talk back. I never ever saw a class mate shut in a room, pinned down or mistreated in any way. I guess things changed since then – the kids are allowed to act out now.
      As for the ‘kid’ who got a beat down for trying to steal a car: it’s lucky it isn’t dead from lead poisoning.

  • WI Sped Teacher

    As a teacher of students with severe intellectual disabilities and language/speech impairments I think that this article casts a dark shadow over all teachers who have had to restrain/seclude a student. In my district there is an intense 2 day training for de-escalation techniques and the last resort seclusion and restraints. Trained teachers should rarely have to restrain a child and if they do, it is with other trained adults. These practiced physical restraints are intended to ensure the safety of the student, their peers and staff while not compromising the physical health of the restrained student. A third staff member must be present to document and ensure the safety of all involved. Believe me, restraint is one of the hardest things to see a student go through and to perform, often ending up in tears from both parties. However, preventing that student from causing extreme bodily harm to themselves or others, in my opinion, is much more important. I’m sure there are several instances of seclusion/restraints in Wisconsin where the staff has made mistakes. But I also would like to note that many indidividuals with disabilities display severely aggressive behaviors that they might not be able to control. Individuals with mental health disorders may not even know what they are doing and react impulsively leaving no other option but to restrain. Please, coming from a teacher who has once had to restrain a student, know that seclusion and restraints are not our first options and is the last thing we want to do to our students. Our intention is to protect.

    I am in 100% support for more research in training and development of programming for teachers who may need to utilize these options. Seclusion and restraints are definitely something that shouldn’t be kept quiet. In saying that, I also feel that teachers who have restrained shouldn’t be made to feel like an abuser by fox6news.

    • WI Sped Teacher

      I want to add a sincere apology to the families featured in this article. There were obviously mistakes and/or a lack of judgement in the staff’s process of the seclusion/restraint. My intention was not to support their actions but help polish the already tarnished reputation of teachers of students with special needs. Like in every profession, there are bad apples and unfortunately this comes at the expense of a child. But we are not all bad apples and are trying everything in our power to keep the children safe!

  • James K.

    Schools should use this more often or, even better, just throw them into a room and locked them until the school day ends.

Comments are closed.