Target: Wanda B. Walker, M.Ed, Director of Exceptional Programs, Prince Edward County Public Schools
Goal: Stop allowing teachers to discipline students with disabilities by restraining or isolating them
Two schools within the Prince William County Public School District in Virginia have been using restraint and seclusion as regular disciplinary tools for emotionally and behaviorally disabled students.
PACE East and PACE West are schools within Prince Edward County that are set up for education of students with behavioral and emotional disabilities. Restraint and seclusion are school policies allowed only for use in emergency situations when a student’s behavior may cause threat to the safety of themselves, school personnel or other students. Unfortunately, it seems this recourse has been used much more frequently for regular discipline rather than for emergency situations.
During the recent school year, PACE East retrained or secluded 31 students 154 times, while PACE West used these methods on 29 students 59 times. The prior school year it was found that 40 percent of the students at these schools were either restrained or secluded. When the students are held within seclusion, it naturally follows that they are denied access to the education the other students are receiving. The schools have also neglected informing parents when this discipline has been used, a violation of their own school policy.
One child was left alone in a room for approximately three hours while another student, who refused to leave his school bus, was held in a room for five hours whereupon he then soiled himself. Though there may be emergency instances when separation from the school population is justified, these schools are using these methods regularly and far too often.
In the case of emotional and behavioral disorders, one rulebook cannot be in play for all the disorders involved. These children need individual attention and simply shutting them away until they quiet down is unacceptable and unfair to their possible progression in life. Tell the schools’ director to stop the use of these unethical disciplinary methods now.
Dear Ms. Walker,
You must review and institute proper policies for disciplinary measures at PACE East and PACE West. The methods of restraint and seclusion are being administered as a ‘first go-to’ for discipline instead of only for emergency situations, as stated in your own policies. The sheer number of students being disciplined in this manner should have you questioning either the current policies or the teachers administering them.
Each of these students is in your care, and this is the last chance for them to improve and learn to function in society before potentially being placed in a facility. How can restraint and solitude, so casually administered, teach these children how to function? Their futures are depending on you to realize they are individual cases and one book rule should not be applied to the whole. Please re-examine this situation and implement changes in policy that will benefit these students.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: frwl via Wikimedia Commons