Real Stories of Restraint & Seclusion

Real Stories of Restraint & Seclusion

Children are traumatized by the use of seclusions and restraints used against them and denied the opportunity to learn with peers in appropriate programs and classrooms. Many parents find it necessary to seek legal assistance so that these abusive actions are stopped and appropriate programs are found. Often, parents have no alternative but to move from their homes into new school districts and neighborhoods so that their children have a second chance to learn without the use of these abusive acts.

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.

Christopher, Student

My name is Christopher, I was restrained and locked in a seclusion room when I was in the 6th grade. The teachers would tell me “you listen to us, we know what’s best for you” I felt at that time I was being taken advantage of, just because I have a disability. I tried to runaway, because I felt safer away from that school setting, but they eventually caught me. I eventually went to a new school where I felt safer, more structure. Schools should be a safe place to learn and educate.

Cher, Parent

My daughter, Maddie, attended a middle school near my home. She was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury at that time, but I now know she had autism as well. The school just said she was having tantrums because she couldn’t get her way. She began having issues in 4th grade, which continued into 5th grade. She was participating in a collaborative model classroom, with two teachers. One was special ed and the other was regular ed. Her behavioral issues escalated in the 5th grade classroom, as there as a regular ed teacher in charge of this class who was very dysfunctional.

My daughter would react to the constant chaos and rigid, authoritarian manner. The special ed kids were treated horribly. Despite many complaints from myself and others, nothing was done about this class. My daughter was restrained and removed from the class too many times to count. She was put in a “behavioral” room where kids basically went and laid on the floor screaming until their meltdowns passed. Sometimes there were lessons attempted. The school refused alternative placement for her. She was humiliated in other classrooms, denied bathroom privileges, given a prone restraint on at least one occasion and dragged across a gym into a hallway by a gym teacher while in a sitting position. I asked for copies of trainings in restraint for the identified teachers and was ignored.

I was threatened with a child abuse report and restraining order by the SUPERINTENDENT if I did not stop making issues. I hired a lawyer the very next day after that and had to fight to get my child out of this horrible place they called a school. I filed a police report against the gym teacher, but everything was shoved under the rug by the school. My child came home with black and blues, actually ate pencils out of stress and had daily headaches. She was forced to remain in the “behavioral therapy room” for several weeks while this was all being resolved. Eventually, I was able to get her referred to a BOCES classroom. There have not been any significant behavior problems in the last three years and she is doing very well. She had to regain trust in the school staff and was traumatized by her prior experience, as were some of the other kids there. The schools should be subject to outside monitoring the same as other facilities. I was forced to send my child to this terrible place on a daily basis. Thanks goodness I had the resources to hire an attorney. What could other families that didn’t do?

Michelle, Parent

My daughter was like any other child who has ever been secluded or restrained. In my daughter’s case, she was a gifted child with an IQ of 153 who was bored in the classroom. Teachers, Counselors, Principals didn’t know what to do with her so they locked her in supply closets, offices and closets. They made her sit in the corner for hours at a time with her back to the class. She was refused lunch and breakfast and was hungry most of the time she was at school. The school district had her arrested when she wouldn’t go into a supply closet to spend her day. They then gave her an IEP and told us that if we didn’t allow her to go to a charter school for children with behavioral problems, that they would expel her. My daughter then went to this “jail” and was bullied by staff and another student and was threatened constantly that she would be put in a standing hold if she didn’t adhere to their philosophies  Finally, I woke up and decided enough was enough and took her out of this school district and put her into home schooling. It’s been six months since I rescued her from that hell and she is doing better. I get angry a lot I think of how they stole her childhood and her innocence and what shame she must have gone through. All the teachers, principals and counselors who abused my daughter still have their jobs. I had to quit my job in nursing three years ago when I had to start being home to become a “private investigator” at my daughter’s school and an expert at IEPs, and educational law. Right now, we’re moving out a home and neighborhood I love, to help my daughter have another chance. Our hope is that putting her in another school district will give her that fresh start she needs. But it’s different this time around, I’m stronger and smarter and I will never allow anyone to hurt my child again.

Joy, Parent

I have two children, boys, ages 11 and 8. Both are on the Autism Spectrum, the oldest with autism and the youngest with Asperger’s. My boys have had several problems developmentally due to their disorders. Both of the boys suffer from social issues and anger issues. They have trouble communicating their needs and desires and become easily frustrated when situations arise that are out of routine or cause sensory overload, such as loud noises, too many people talking at once, or so much activity and distraction that they cannot discriminate and focus on a single person or an area of learning. My oldest spent several years in elementary school getting reprimanded because of his outbursts and meltdowns that were often due to sensory overload and/or communication issues. He would scream, kick, and fall on the floor in the classroom. Sometimes he would throw books, backpacks, or folders. Now and then, he would tip over tables or chairs. This could have been a volatile and dangerous situation for other students and for himself. Thankfully, his teachers were able to calm him down or restrain him, and remove him from those areas so that children were not hurt and he did not hurt himself. As time went on, and he grew, we spent a great deal of time and money attending counseling sessions and teaching him anger management. He had several opportunities to practice gaining control of himself and, by most standards, was doing quite well. He had learned several ways to regulate himself and not lose control and he had tools at his disposal to prevent himself from melting down at school. We contacted the school and told them about his new tools he had to calm down, which included placing his head on his desk, deep breathing exercises, counting, and color charting( identifying his anger level by color). He did quite well, or so we thought. However, after several upsetting counseling sessions over a period of months, he seemed to become angry more quickly than ever before. Finally, in a counseling session, he told us the school staff had a team that would come and remove him from the classroom if he put his head down, or refused to do the work.

I was never informed, in writing, when restraint was used on my son, whether it was necessary or not. The school went against the counselor’s advice and restrained him when he was not a threat to anyone, not himself or others. Two adults repeatedly dragged him by the arms, out of the classroom, because he put his head down. This went on for months. When it was a safety issue, I understood the need to remove and/or restrain him. However, when there wasn’t a safety issue, there were no laws or directives to stop them from doing it because they wanted to. The great amount of support we had put in to our child to help him grow and develop backfired completely. He withdrew from everyone around him. He would not speak to anyone except for us for a long time. He did not trust others or himself. He no longer used the tools he had learned to keep himself calm and not meltdown for fear of adults using it to physically restrain and transport him. He thought we, his parents, were aware of the schools treatment of him and that we accepted and encouraged it. He was heartbroken, and so were we. He lost confidence and withdrew from life for quite a while. Essentially, we had an emotionally abused child at home. We moved the boys to a new school district and started again. I am also a teacher. I teach special education in the high school setting. I deal with these types of issues professionally from time to time. I have never restrained a student, although I am trained to do so. Generally, I prefer to help them deescalate their anger and move on with the day. I hope our story will help children receive the support they need instead of being punished for something out of their control.

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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.
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