Real Stories of Restraint & Seclusion

Real Stories of Restraint & Seclusion

Children who are being restrained and/or secluded in closets and other types of equipment are keenly aware of what is happening to them.  Many children cannot communicate these aversive actions against them to their parents but some children do tell their parents about how they fell and hurt during these acts when done to them. Parents often learn about their children’s experiences just by accident, in a conversation with their child, or by a brave and conscientious teacher informing them that these practices are occurring and are wrongfully being used.   These five stories are being told by parents and students with these experiences. 

If you or a loved one have experienced restraint and seclusion in school, and would like to share your experience, please click here. You can view the other stories we’ve collected through the Stop Hurting Kids campaign here.

Note: stories are posted in the format in which they were received. Some identifying information may be removed/altered at the request of the submitter.

Kristy, Student

At school I was pinned down on a mat.  The staff held my legs together so I couldn’t move.  I tried to break free from their grip but I couldn’t.  They were too strong.  I still remember the exact day.That day was Wednesday May 26, 2010.  This isn’t the first time the staff restrained me. I still have nightmares about school from time to time and I even tried to kill myself last year because the horrible memories of those restraints just won’t go away.  It’s very hard to move on from such a traumatic experience.

Mary, Parent

My son was 9 years old and weighed just 49 lbs when he joined my family in the fall of 2009. He came to live with us because his biological family had locked him in a room, neglected and abused him, denied him use of a toilet and kept him home from school. He suffered from PTSD, anxiety and ADHD, as well as rotten teeth and very poor muscle tone. Soon after he joined our family, we enrolled him in (Public Schools). Within two months, he began to regress, to the point where he would not walk, wanted to wear diapers, wanted to be rocked and wanted to play baby games. We could not figure out why this was happening. Then one night, he told me a difficult story of how a biological family member would lay on him to the point where he would pass out. This was done as a punishment for escaping from the room in which he had spent almost all of his life. He told me how much it hurt, how he couldn’t breathe and how he felt he was going to die. When I told this story to the teachers at his school, they said, “Oh we’ve been laying on him, too”. The teachers at his school had apparently been laying on top of him because he was kicking the walls of the quiet room. The quiet room was a small carpeted room where they would put him when he acted up.   As it turns out, they had been doing this several times a week for a half an hour at a time for almost two months without keeping records, without an aversive intervention plan in place on his IEP, without my consent and without notifying me.  When I heard this, I was absolutely devastated.  I had thought we were helping him by sending him to school, but as it turns out, what the teachers were doing was replicating the same trauma he suffered at the hands of his biological family. My son suffered great anxiety from this treatment. Despite three years of counseling, it has been difficult for my son to regain any trust for teachers, which, in turn, makes school very, very difficult for him.

Irish, Parent

Back in the 80’s my son was diagnosed as having ADD. He was in 5th grade and prior to being put on Ritalin, the teacher was always complaining that he would disrupt the class. After leaving for school in the morning, I realized that he forgot to take his lunch with him, so I drove it to the school. The office said I could just take it up to his classroom, which I did. When I got to his room, I noticed a large refrigerator box outside the classroom door. AS I was about to knock on his classroom door, a little cut-out door in the box opened and my sons head peeked out saying “Mom, what are you doing here?” I was actually STUNNED where I stood. I asked him what he doing in the box, thinking it was a class game of some sort, but he told me that this was where he had to go EVERY DAY, ALL DAY to do his work! His desk, books, bookbag, coat….everything was in that box with him…including his bottle of Ritalin, which he was expected to take on his own!! I then went a little crazy, knocking the box over it, then we marched down to the principals office. The administration actually defended the teacher, saying she was at her wits end with him & that was her only recourse in keeping an orderly class. I did make a complaint with the school board but back then we didn’t have all the laws we have now and basically nothing was done about it. My son was ‘allowed’ back into the classroom for a while until they eventually had him transferred to an intermediate unit school….for mentally challenged children & those with (Syndrome.) And there was nothing we could do about it. He is now 36 years, old, and I still cry when I think about that incident and how he was treated. And believe me, I have other stories of negligence but this is the one that sticks out most in a Mother’s mind, along with the fact that I made a huge mistake in agreeing to the use Ritalin. Sadly, he quit school in his senior year>but later received an art degree. He has an IQ over 160, is a musical prodigy, is lead vocalist in his own band, a talented artist, can write HTML code, designs webpages, holds a steady job and is a wonderful Father! He still has ADD (but I suspect Asbergers instead). How can one hurt a child? When you hurt a child, you break their spirit. And you hurt their entire family as well. The pain NEVER goes away. Thanks for letting me vent!

Tracy, Parent

I remember the worst restraint to date was when my son came home and with little emotion told me that he was restrained again. It is a daily event in our lives because my son “A” is in a class for behavioral challenged children. Even though he is diagnosed Autistic, 4 times they held him. And without skipping a beat he said “the last one bothered me the most because you know how I feel about being choked. And whoa is my teacher strong when she chokes you out”. I cried like any parent would do. I called the school the following morning and expressed my feelings for the Aide that had done this. It was all denied. Yet a week later more parents complained and the aide was removed from class and transferred to another class. Not fired, not reprimanded, but transferred. She was no longer allowed by the children in this particular class. I have been in the “quiet” room. It is a cement walled (grey at that), no windows, secluded from the class, with a fire door and a lock. The children thrash about when they are over exposed. Hurting themselves. They are left in there until they brake down emotionally. I remember reading about places like this in our history books. It is how they treat prisoners of war. The worst thing out of all of this is the Director of Special Ed for the district did not know that most of the schools had this room. It does not really make me comfy believing in the system.

Michelle, Parent

My son Jack was restrained over 30 times while attending 3rd grade @ our township elementary school.  I never knew about the restraints until a teacher told me he saw an aide restrain my son on the floor until he was incontinent of urine. Jack has Autism and at the time was unable to tell me what was going on. It was the most horrible feeling learning what had happened to my son. Most of the horrific details came out during depositions with the school district.  I did file suit in (Court) and prevailed. I was able to get some sort of justice for Jack.  I hope by telling his story, we can put an end to restraint and seclusion in schools.

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Hi there! I'm the advocacy communications manager for TASH (http://tash.org), and also the communications coordinator for the Stop Hurting Kids campaign to end restraint and seclusion abuse in schools. If you have a question about the campaign and what we're doing, send me an e-mail at jriethmaier@tash.org.

5 Comments on "Real Stories of Restraint & Seclusion"

  • It would be great if there was a pretty easy process for uploading pictures of scream rooms or injured children. Pictures tell a thousand words.

  • Michele, Grandparent says

    I grew up in the 70s and a kid in my 4th grade class name Kevin. He was disruptive in class and like many others I have read here, he was segregated from the rest of the class. I always felt it was wrong. We were indtructed not to talk to him even at lunch and recess. It had to be horrible for him.

    Now my grandson has ADHD and Aspbergers. He attends a special school with strict consequences. They have used “holding therapy” which I think is complete BS. If someone is out of control and mad how does this help. My answer is it doesn’t. As an adult the last thing I would want is to be held if I am mad. They also have a “quiet room” where the students go it they need to calm down.

    I hope that something can be done.

  • Jane Brooks says

    My son has been a victim of restraint and seclusion all of his “special education”. The definition of secluded in my dictionary is , sheltered or screened from general activity, view, etc. 2. withdraw from or involving little human or social activity. That is how “special education” is implemented in Cody Wy. for my son. He has been placed in a room that had the heat on , on a warm day, no window to see him. He said , “I can die!” He had taken his clothes off in there which he never did before. Because it was so hot he though he would die. I was told he was in there 5 minutes because he stuck out his tongue and barked. (trying to tell them we went to see the Tim Allen movie Shaggy Dog.) For the first three years of school he was kept in a room with medically needy students one was in pain and cried all day. The other one was also non-verbal with severe medical suction needs. He was allowed 12 minutes a day with the regular children although it was documented he did so much better for those few minutes, counting the days on the calendar. Last year in 9th grade his desk was in a closet size room with two non-verbal peers. I went to school for another appointment and looked for him in his one inclusive class that was allowed PT. Students were line dancing and listening to music. I found my son with a para and one non-verbal student in a separate room para sitting with son standing looking around the dark room. The para told me he was with him every day. Not what the IEP said was happening. That is why is is required that parents of disabled kids notify the school ahead of time so they can pretend they are doing what they are supposed to.