Senator Wants Mandatory Seclusion Room Training at Schools

By:  Max Reiss
NBC Connecticut

Sen. Chris Murphy said during a roundtable discussion that "it's unacceptable that 30,000 kids get restrained each year in schools" and wants to mandate training for use of seclusion rooms.

The junior Senator referenced a study completed last year by the Office of the Child Advocate that estimated 2,500 students receive the bulk of the thousands of restraints and seclusions.

"The fact is, there are some instances where kids are so violent, so much of a threat to other teachers or kids that they have to be restrained, but there shouldn’t be 30,000 episodes of restraint in this state every year" Murphy said.

Some schools are equipped with padded "seclusion rooms" designed to keep students isolated when a teacher or staff member determines they are acting out. State law dictates that the rooms and measures are only supposed to used in certain "emergency situations."

A new report reveals that while the use of seclusion rooms went down in the 2012-2013 school year, the number of emergency seclusions were up and minority children were found to be placed in the rooms more often. (Published Monday, Feb 10, 2014)

Brenetta Henry, the mother of a child with autism, spoke during the roundtable discussion Murphy moderated Friday. She said her son had to be restrained many times in the past and she has worried for his safety.

"At that time, it was teachers, it was security guards, and a lot of them weren’t trained in doing restraint. There were a couple of times where I walked in and he was laid out on the floor: arms, legs and everything, so people just weren’t trained in the right way to do the restraints," she explained.

Seclusion Rooms Used 23,000 Times in Connecticut Schools

Henry said she wants to see training mandated for teachers and staff because children could get hurt. According to the report, there have been more than 1,300 children injured during either seclusion or restraint.
"When a child has sensory issues, just the least touch can affect that child so we really need to know how to deal with our children," she said.

Murphy said the fact that many of the children who have to restrained are in fact living with disabilities is more reason to pass state and federal laws mandating training.

"Good schools provide training but there are a lot of professionals and teachers who are falling through the cracks. We need to do more with training. We need to know what kind of restraint is right. What kind is wrong," he said.