Wisconsin Examiner

Seclusion and Restraint Incidents Down Slightly at Schools in 2022-23

But still affects thousands of students in Wisconsin; nearly 80% of them are disabled.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Apr 24th, 2024 12:07 pm
School classroom. Pixabay License. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

School classroom. (Pixabay License).

Wisconsin schools reported more than 5,000 seclusion incidents and more than 6,000 physical restraint incidents during the 2022-23 school year, according to a report published Tuesday by the state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

There were in total 1,868 students involved in 5,396 seclusion incidents, and 2,763 students involved in 6,366 restraint incidents. Students with disabilities represented a disproportionate number of those involved in incidents.

Students with disabilities make up 14% of the statewide student population. About 80% of seclusion incidents involved students with disabilities, while 78% of restraint incidents involved students with disabilities.

DPI Superintendent Jill Underly said in a statement that every effort must be made to prevent the use of seclusion and restraint.

“We must remember each of these reported incidents represents a traumatic lived experience — both for a student and for school staff,” Underly said. “As progress continues toward our goal of limiting these tactics, our schools need additional support to train and educate staff around trauma-informed practices to help address the unique behavioral needs of students.”

Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of students in a room where they are physically prevented from leaving, while physical restraint is the restriction that immobilizes or reduces a student’s ability to freely move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head. Both are only allowed to be used when a clear, present, and imminent risk to the student or others’ physical safety is present.

Families affected by seclusion and restraint use and advocates told the Wisconsin Examiner earlier this year that more needs to be done to limit the use of seclusion and restraint throughout the state. DPI has said that it is working to provide support to school districts with high rates of seclusion and restraint.

The state of Wisconsin started gathering data on seclusion and restraint use from schools in the 2019-20 school year as a way of holding schools accountable.

The numbers from the 2022-23 school year represent an 8.7% decrease in seclusions and 8% decrease in restraints from the 2021-22 school year reports. DPI notes that conclusions drawn from trend analysis “should still be considered with caution” since this is only the fourth state-wide collection of the data and because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a shift in instruction.

“Since incidents of seclusion and restraint occur in in-person spaces rather than virtual learning spaces, additional considerations should be made when interpreting how incident numbers have changed over time,” the report states. “Incident trends over time will continue to become more informative as more data is collected in future years.”

The report said that the similarities between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school year numbers may reflect a new baseline moving forward.

Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, a civil rights attorney and longtime advocate for limiting seclusion and restraint use, said that this year’s report, similar to previous years, doesn’t shine a light on whether there are problematic schools with consistently high rates.

According to the report, a third of schools reported one or more incidents of seclusion, while 46% — 1,020 schools — reported one or more restraint incidents.

Spitzer-Resnick said that these numbers could “be really good news, but of course, we don’t know whether that’s from poor reporting or good practices.” He has said that he thinks DPI should be looking to identify schools with improved practices that could serve as examples for schools with consistently higher instances.

“Kids aren’t really all that different,” Spitzer-Resnick said. “The reasons why seclusion and restraint aren’t happening to the extent they aren’t happening is because adults are responding differently than in schools where it is happening to likely similar behaviors.”

Spitzer-Resnick acknowledged that DPI has said it would take more resources to implement this type of suggestion, but said there should be a funding request put in. He said the department should also be able to provide outlying schools with specific resources aimed at lowering the use of the tactics.

Seclusion and restraint incidents down slightly in Wisconsin schools during 2022-23 was originally published by Wisconsin Examiner.

One thought on “Seclusion and Restraint Incidents Down Slightly at Schools in 2022-23”

  1. Mingus says:

    I think that the numbers of restraints and seclusions is not critical but helping school districts establish protocols which insure the safety of the special education students and the rest of the students in the classroom. A student who is aggressive and out of control could hurt themselves or other students. When such incidents are not controlled, the classroom would have an environment which students would regularly be concerned about getting hurt. If students feel that their classroom is not safe, this is a school generated source of trauma. In situations where a student is out of control, some advocates promote a “strategy” of taking the other students out of the room and let the out of control student so what they want in terms of damaging the classroom.

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