Children held down: Families question therapeutic restraints in schools

SCARBOROUGH — Brandon Baizley is smart, but even his parents admit he is a difficult 6-year-old.

Brandon was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiance disorder more than a year ago. His parents, Bob and Mary Ann, know that Brandon will constantly test their rules and boundaries, he will push their buttons and try to get that piece of candy, that trip to Build-a-Bear.

But they also know that someday Brandon, whose IQ is significantly higher than the average child his age, will be a successful and productive member of society.

However, the Baizleys believe Brandon's life could be at risk from the therapeutic restraints imposed on him at school.

The holds, which began when Brandon was 5 years old, have occurred more than 25 times in the past year and a half, and have led to a sprained wrist, hospitalization and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Fearing for his safety, Bob and Mary Ann pulled Brandon out of school for more than a month this spring.

For Brandon and hundreds of other special education students like him, therapeutic restraint by school staff have become a regular part of their public school experiences.

Prone, basket holds

Therapeutic restraints are defined by the Maine Department of Education as the physical restraint of a student for the purpose of preventing that student from injuring himself or others.

The methods range from prone restraints — where a staff member holds a child face-down on the floor and prevents the child's arms and legs from moving — to seated basket holds, where a staff member wraps his or her arms around a child's arms from behind.

The Department of Education requires each school district to develop and maintain a policy on restraint and seclusion.

Scarborough schools require that therapeutic restraints are only to be undertaken in accordance with an individualized, written plan that specifically calls for it. Schools in Portland, South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Brunswick and Falmouth all have identical policies.

However, these restraints are often used in emergency situations to prevent children from hurting themselves, their classmates or their teachers — even when they're not included in the child's individual education plan.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report in March detailing 10 cases where children died or were seriously injured from the use of therapeutic restraints, citing prone holds as the most dangerous forms of restraint. The study found that often these holds were performed by staff members with little or no training.

The Maine Disability Rights Center has handled 53 complaints about abusive or neglectful restraints in Maine schools in the past two years.

“These are cases in which a student or family member contacted the agency about the use of restraint or seclusion that the caller believed to be abusive or neglectful, and after a review of the facts, we agreed to represent the family,” said Diane Smith, an attorney for DRC.

The Department of Education sent a letter to all Maine school superintendents, principals, directors of special education and teachers in July 2009, recommending that schools update their policies to prohibit these dangerous restraints.

“The Department not only strongly supports the effort to prohibit this type of restraint, we would broaden the prohibition to include all children and any position which restricts the free movement of the diaphragm or chest so as to interrupt normal breathing and speech,” the letter stated. It went on to explain that these restraints can cause death.

But the policies used by Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Portland, Scarborough and South Portland do not reflect this prohibition.

The schools' policies state that “at least two adults should be involved in the use of therapeutic restraints ... and, if possible, both adults should have completed an appropriate training program.”

In emergency situations, the policies continue, “if an untrained adult is involved in the intervention, his/her conduct shall also be protected to the full extent allowed by state law on the use of reasonable force in emergencies.”

While some schools, including Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth, performed only one or two therapeutic restraints last year, a Freedom of Access Act request by The Forecaster found that other schools are using the method more often: 22 times in Brunswick, 27 in Scarborough and 46 in Portland.

South Portland, which has a specialized day treatment facility, used therapeutic holds 63 times last year.

“This year is very much an outlier for us,” said Allison Marchese, special education director for the Scarborough School Department. “It's not typical.”

Marchese said the school has paid to move the students involved in the majority of the holds into day treatment centers such as Spurwink.

Investigation stalled

When Brandon Baizley entered kindergarten in the fall of 2008 it became immediately apparent there was a problem.

He was acting out in class, being disruptive in a way he never had been in preschool. In October 2008, Bob and Mary Ann requested a functional behavioral assessment from the Blue Point School to determine the best way to move forward with Brandon's education. These assessments are typically done for special education students.

While they waited for the assessment they say was never done, Brandon was being physically restrained regularly at school.

After Brandon was injured in a series of three restraints on Dec. 19, 2008, his parents requested an investigation by the Scarborough School Board and superintendent.

However, when school officials asked that the Baizleys provide the hospitalization forms, which included Brandon's detailed medical history, their lawyer advised them to refuse, and the lawyer at Maine Medical Center told the Baizleys the hospital would refuse to release documents until proper legal protocol was followed. As a result, the school district did not complete an investigation.

Scarborough Superintendent David Doyle did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Department of Education has no system in place to take parent complaints on violations of Chapter 33, which regulates restraints in public schools.

“Maine has regulations, which puts it a step ahead of a lot of other states,” said Smith of DRC, “but there's no capacity for parents to file complaints. There's no formal process.”

Smith added that restraints are only supposed to be used when a child is a danger to himself or others, not in instances when property may be damaged or when a child is being defiant. However, her organization has found that in many cases restraints are used as a punishment to discourage certain behavior.

Trained to restrain

When asked if she knew of any students having been injured in Scarborough due to a restraint, Marchese, the special ed director, said, “not that I have seen documentation of, or talked to medical personnel about, no.”

In 20 restraint documents provided by the Baizleys, 11 people were listed as directly involved in restraining Brandon, which included multiple instances of prone restraints.

Of those 11, the Maine Department of Education could only find certification records for eight, and only one was a certified special education instructor.

Marchese said any Scarborough staff member who might have to do a therapeutic restraint is trained.

“We always had all our staff trained in programs that teach strategies for calming, for moving away,” she said. “Therapeutic intervention is always our goal. We want to keep everyone physically and emotionally safe.”

Next year, Brandon's parents say the Scarborough School Department has asked that Brandon attend a day treatment program at Spurwink rather than going to public school. Scarborough and Medicaid will pay for the treatment.

Brandon's mother said she is disappointed that her son wouldn't be attending public school.

“We feel like Scarborough gave up on Brandon,” she said.

The Baizleys said they hope Brandon's new school is a good fit, and that eventually he'll be able to return to Scarborough. In the meantime, they offer advice to other parents in similar situations.

“You need to educate yourself,” Bob Baizley said. “The best advocate for a child is a parent. People were willing to help us because we've done so much work and really advocated for Brandon.”

“We only wish we had reached out sooner,” he added.

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Comments

 's picture

IEP

Scotty,
Again if this language passes into law it won't matter who is on the IEP team if the subject is restraint and seclusion because it will be a FEDERAL LAW for all states to follow and we will have no say so in the matter. The IEP Team will no longer have to come to agreement on this subject because it will be a FEDERAL LAW and if the school staff say R & S goes in the IEP then it's a done deal and you or I will have no say so. The language the senate want to change will give school staff the right to add R & S into the IEP without the need for parent consent. This is why I am working with 18 national organizations trying to NOT get this language added to the bill. This law will override IDEA law which the IEP is included in. Everyone needs to call their United States Senators and ask them NOT to allow restraint and seclusion to be added to the IEP when reviewing Federal Bill S.2860 .

 's picture

Different Programs

Scotty,
My email about "URGENT ACTION ALERT!!! - Call Senate: No Restraint/Seclusion in IEP; Protect IDEA Rights!" is about a federal bill S.2860 that is getting ready to go to the U.S. Senate. The Senate wants to allow school staff (IEP Team) to be able to put restraint and seclusion into a child's IEP if they (IEP Team) think it is needed . If the the senate add this language to the bill and this bill passes to law you will no longer have the right to say you do not want restraint and seclusion in your child's IEP because this will be a federal law that will apply to all 50 states. If this language passes to law this law will override IDEA.

Regards,
Phyllis
Families Against Restraint and Seclusion
http://familiesagainstrestraintandseclusion.blogspot.com/

 's picture

No Restraint/Seclusion in IEP; Protect IDEA Rights!

URGENT ACTION ALERT!!!

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A THERAPEUTIC RESTRAINT!!

Call the Senate: No Restraint/Seclusion in IEP; Protect IDEA Rights!
From the COPAA Discussion list:

This week, as the Senate drafts its final version of the Preventing Harmful Restraint
and Seclusion in Schools Act, S. 2860, a very dangerous provision is creeping in. The Senate would let school staff put restraint/seclusion in a child’s IEP or 504 plan. Call your Senators now and ask them to reject this proposal. See Instructions Below on How To Contact Congress.

Senators: Please Do Not Allow Restraint/Seclusion to be Added to the IEP in S.2860. Currently, in both House and Senate bills, Sec. 5(a)(4) forbids including restraint/seclusion in an IEP as a planned intervention. The Senate should not change it. Evidence shows that when student plans contain restraint/seclusion, staff use them as a first resort, not last resort. Restraint/Seclusion provide no educational benefit; instead, they kill, injure, and traumatize. They do not belong in IEPs.

Senators: S. 2860 should require that all students receive IEPs which treat them with dignity, with positive interventions, and appropriate services. These are the techniques that prevent dangerous behavior. They help deescalate hot situations and prevent them from arising. Those in Congress who say they don’t work are wrong. 70% of the parents surveyed in Unsafe in the Schoolhouse (J. Butler, COPAA, 2009) reported that their children received only restraint and seclusion--not positive interventions. The planned Senate bill, while supporting school-wide positive interventions, wouldn’t require positive interventions in individual student plans, but it would permit restraint/seclusion instead.

Senators: The Proposed Amendment to S. 2860 Will Take Away IDEA Rights. Unlike IDEA, 504, and ADA, the Restraint/Seclusion bill has been written to prevent parents from seeking to enforce it in with lawsuits. It is like NCLB and FERPA. By adding a provision permitting restraint/seclusion in IEPs, the bill may be used to prevent parents from challenging those IEPs under the IDEA. This appears to be inadvertent, but it would have a major impact on exercising IDEA rights! The new law (S2860) would take precedence over the old law (IDEA).

Parents might be unable to invoke stay put to stop the new IEP; to demand that it not be implemented without their consent; to seek an IEE to challenge elements of it; and to go to mediation and due process to fight it. This will occur unless the Senate puts in language to protect those IDEA IEP rights.

The Senate bill would not require fully informed consent from parents before IEPs include restraint/seclusion. The amendment wouldn't require giving out a notice of procedural safeguards. The Senate bill has no requirement that the IEP team consider medical and psychological contraindications to r/s (e.g., no pressure to a child with brittle bones or chronic pain; sensory issues for children with autism; avoiding physical restraint for an abuse victim).

Putting R/S in an IEP Is NOT necessary to plan for crises. Some Senators claim that restraint/seclusion should be in an IEPs when a person is in danger of injury and the student has a history of injuring others. They may tell you this when you call them. But the current bills always allow restraint/seclusion to be used when someone is in danger of injury (Sec 5(a)(2). Adding it to the IEP isn't needed to make this effective. Nor is it needed to plan for violent students, a claim made by the amendments supporters. Students who continue to be aggressive need strong positive interventions and solid de-escalation techniques.

The bills already allow schools to undertake school-wide and other safety plans that aren't specific to an individual child (Sec. 4). These will take care of crisis planning needs (e.g. “If a teacher cannot safely move a large child into the seclusion room, Mr. X should be called.”) And certainly nothing in the bill stops staff from talking about what they would do in an emergency. Nor is the IEP IEP provision needed to simply add protections for children to IEPs (e.g., permit a nonverbal child access to assistive technology). The current bill only forbids adding restraint/seclusion as a “planned intervention.” It doesn’t prevent anyone from adding protections to an IEP.

Senators: Schools have the upper-hand in IEP negotiations; parents rarely are equals. Some Senators think that IEP meetings are even-sided negotiations and parents who oppose restraint/seclusion could simply say no. They need to hear from you about how one-sided IEP meetings are. Every person reading this has stories about how unequal IEP meetings are; the Senate needs to hear those. Even if the Senate requires informed consent, parental consent is often coerced and parents are not aware of their rights, or fully informed of the dangers.

PLEASE CALL THE SENATE NOW. If you want to impact the amendments being written, now is the time to be heard! The Senate is drafting the amendments now. The professional lobbyists for school districts are making themselves heard. Why not you?

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CALLING YOUR SENATORS:

-- Always use the bill number, S. 2860, Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act. Please call; Senators pay more attention to calls. Email may get lost. Use Email only if you must.

-- Dial 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904) or go to www.senate.gov, click on Senators for contact information (including local numbers). You will have 2 Senators. When you call, ask for their Education or Disability Aide. Leave a detailed voicemail message if they are not available. Be sure to identify the bill by name, Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act and use the number, S. 2860.

Please call your Senators--but especially if you live in these states on the Senate HELP Committee: AK, AZ, CO, CT, GA, IA, KS , MD, MN, NC, NH, NM, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, TN, UT, VT, WA, WY. If you are in these states, check the HELP Committee website so you call the Senator on the Committee, http://help.senate.gov/. If you have friends or family in the Committee states, please get them to call. And even if you are not in a Committee state, please call. Senators from all over the country are impacting this bill.

-- Call Senator Tom Harkin and ask for his disability counsel (phone 202-224-3254, fax 202-224-9369). Senator Harkn chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, http://help.senate.gov/ and has much power over this bill. He needs to hear from parents and advocates from around the country; he certainly is hearing from the other side.

Please feel free to distribute and share this alert as long as you include my signature block below in full.

Thanks,
Jess Butler
As the mother of a child with autism, Jess is currently Congressional Affairs Coordinator for the Autism National Committee (www.autcom.org) which has worked to promote civil rights for people with autism for two decades. She previously was Chair of the Board of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, and cochaired its Congressional Affairs efforts from 2004-09, authoring Unsafe in the Schoolhouse, Abuse of Children with Disabilities(COPAA 2009). This alert is a personal statement by Jess and reflects her views.

Mary  Robinson's picture

okay...

Do you have a child that can't speak? I do. His frustrations leads to his outbursts and violent behaviors. Same thing happens for millions of children with Autism. So teach the parents how to communicate with the children? What do you think we are doing? I know I do everything I so my child will not be violent. EVERYTHING! I know how to communicate with him. I still have to restrain him for his and my safety. He doesn't know how to communicate with me. I have him in school year round working on this. Trust me I would love to hear my son speak.

I'm supposed to call the police on my 4 year old? I don't see what the LPD or APD would do for me. I have every type of service you can have for a special needs child. They would put him in St Mary's Psych ward for a evaluation, then see if they had placement available at Spring Harbor. Which they never do. Trust me I know already. Then he would be back home with me, kicking my butt. Then back at stage one again. Call the cops sounds like a easy way to pass the buck to me.

I don't believe in restraining a child like 3 adults jumping on the kid. Thats unnecessary and uncalled for. Those are the people that need to be educated on how to deal with a situation correctly.

One of the points of restraining a child that is not to harm him. Its also a way to try to stop the behavior. When I have to hold my son from beating me up or beating his head up against the wall. I hold him in a way that I can still hug him. Talk to him to help him calm down. Its a process. Its just not the act of RESTRAINT! Its an action you can take to try to defuse the problem.

I love the quote you posted.. I just wish it was true for every situation.

Cathi Gonzalez's picture

This is becoming more and more of a problem in Maine schools

My son was another victim of untrained school administration using the prone restraint for unjustified reasons. He had never harmed anyone and was not a danger to himself or anyone else. The restraints were used because he was trying to exit the principal's office. They used the restriaints in an effort to prevent a behavior that had never occurred. My 11 year old son was basically thrown face first on the floor with 2 or 3 adults laying on top of him. When I entered the room - it smelled like a sweaty locker room - which told me that these adults were exerting WAY TOO much energy on my child. I am disgusted with the way my son was dealt with at this Lewiston Public School and very frustrated with the Lewiston School Department's lack of attention to this matter. These restraints were only part of the problem. The Board of Education really needs to take a good look at the Lewiston School System and require some specialized training throughout the schools. I am doing my part to make sure that happens.
To the Baizley family - I feel your frustration and pain. As far as Spurwink School - it's a WONDERFUL school with well trained and dedicated teachers and administration. It will be a much welcomed break for you not to constantly be getting phone calls to come get your son from school. He will be taught a lot of coping skills and taught how to use them as well. Stay strong and keep your heads up - it can only get better from here!

Cathi Gonzalez's picture

This is becoming more and more of a problem in Maine schools

My son was another victim of untrained school administration using the prone restraint for unjustified reasons. He had never harmed anyone and was not a danger to himself or anyone else. The restraints were used because he was trying to exit the principal's office. They used the restriaints in an effort to prevent a behavior that had never occurred. My 11 year old son was basically thrown face first on the floor with 2 or 3 adults laying on top of him. When I entered the room - it smelled like a sweaty locker room - which told me that these adults were exerting WAY TOO much energy on my child. I am disgusted with the way my son was dealt with at this Lewiston Public School and very frustrated with the Lewiston School Department's lack of attention to this matter. These restraints were only part of the problem. The Board of Education really needs to take a good look at the Lewiston School System and require some specialized training throughout the schools. I am doing my part to make sure that happens.
To the Baizley family - I feel your frustration and pain. As far as Spurwink School - it's a WONDERFUL school with well trained and dedicated teachers and administration. It will be a much welcomed break for you not to constantly be getting phone calls to come get your son from school. He will be taught a lot of coping skills and taught how to use them as well. Stay strong and keep your heads up - it can only get better from here!

Mary  Robinson's picture

You are correct cathi.

You are correct cathi. Spurwink is a wonderful school.. I know of hundreds of children that have been almost saved by the programs they have. Make a good IEP with them. ITs a lot of work. Those are the people you want helping you. I have a feeling my son will be there one day. Hoping he will.

I don't like hearing about a 11 yr old being jumped on by 3 teachers. That is too much. Not right. I would be really upset if I found out I had 3 grown ups on my son cause he tried to leave a room. Sorry you experienced that.

The specially training for restraints is SO HARD TO FIND IN MAINE!!! I've asked DHHS many of times to send me to a class about restraints and holds. So I could make sure I was doing them correctly, since I hadn't been training in over 6 years. I needed to be refreshed. ( used to work in mental health before I had my son with special needs) To this day no one has given me that information. Tons of funding to the children's mental health program and many other programs have been cut. The system and the times are failing us.

Cathi Gonzalez's picture

Thanks Mia

If enough of us parents with special needs children band together and educate ourselves - we can make a difference. I have never been one to accept "NO" as an answer. "It can't be done" is not okay for me either....we have to push and push and push for our children to make sure that their needs are met in the LEAST RESTRICTIVE way possible. Is there a local group we can join? If not - let's form one. I am serious - I am so disgusted with what happened to my son this past year - I want to make sure that it doesn't happen to him in the future or to anyone else's children.
We need to force the School Department to do what is right by our children...otherwise, they are going to ruin them one by one. I, for one, won't let that happen to my boys.

Mary  Robinson's picture

Lets do it!

Lets get the info together for other parents that are in the same situation. Look into these classes and trainings that parents should have access too. We need more resources for our kids. Cause the KEY factor to helping children is called EARLY INTERVENTION! If some people could actually not think about themselves for a bit (hard to do with those xyz whatever people) Think we need to get together and become that village that it takes to raise a child. I'm all for it. Feel free to reach me at my E-mail MaryRobinson1984@yahoo.com. I've actually set up a Child Abuse Awareness Rally a couple years back. I'm all for helping the community. Also try to educate the people around here.

I don't take NO as a answer either.. well maybe sometime.. with my son.. but I can't be a hard A$$ all the time.

Jan Bachelder's picture

ticks me off

You know xyz, its a really good thing that this is a place where you can come and spout your vile ignorance in anonymity. Otherwise you might actually have to be responsible for YOUR behavior. As a parent of a child who has ADHD I can tell you that it is VERY real, and VERY frustrating. I have two other children who do NOT have ADHD, so its not a matter of just excusing bad behaviors. ALL of my children are actually very well behaved, even the one with ADHD, especially out in public. I am just so absolutely FURIOUS with your post that coherent words escape me. Do the world a favor and take your venomous opinions somewhere else, preferably off planet.

Cathi Gonzalez's picture

XYZ

MeinMaine - people like XYZ have nothing better to do then start trouble. Don't let it get to you. He or she is obviously uneducated when it comes to special needs children. Don't sweat it - maybe someday XYZ will be blessed with a special needs child and then and only then will he or she truly understand.

Mary  Robinson's picture

Special needs children sometimes need restraints

I am a mother of a 4 yr old boy with special needs. My son is a bright, intelligent child. He can do things that most 4 yr olds can't do, but then he can't handle his emotions at all. He lashes out at myself, family and teachers. Bites, kicks, punches, throws and even spits. All are a form of assault. Its sad to say that he has to be restrained at times to protect himself or others. There has been times that I've had to restrain him till someone was able to come help me in public cause he was pulling my hair out, beating me cause he didn't get a toy. Outside of Wally World for all of L/A to watch. Oh yea they did. Making comments that I'm a horrible mother etc. I don't let it bother me.

I have to look for child care from people that do know how to restrain the proper way. I don't have the option for daycare.

My son is in a amazing school Margaret Murphy Center For Children in Auburn. Honestly I know how hard of a time my son gives them. I give the school so much credit for keeping my son safe and the other children that play with him. Thats always a concern of mine. If he may harm another peer.

To restrain or not to restrain is really a judgement call on the safety of the child. I see if its become a problem to child, then another option needs to be figured out. Granted, I'm just learning myself. I don't know about every disorder kids are labeled with today.
I just know that special children sometimes needs special care. My son has to be restrained for his own safety and mine.

I wish the family all best.

Dan Moody's picture

A 6 year old ?

Behavioral Science is the only thing that comes to my mind ... work on that one . Not going into that science..... GOOD LUCK KID'S AND ALL

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