ACTION ALERT: Virginia’s Proposed Seclusion and Restraint Regulations
In 2015, a new law required the Virginia Board of Education to pass regulations governing the use of seclusion and restraint in Virginia’s public elementary and secondary schools. After more than three years of rulemaking process, the Board has offered a set of proposed regulations for public review (you can read the regulations here and in the attached issue of the Virginia Register). The Board is currently receiving public comments and has set a public hearing for these regulations. Now is the time to provide feedback on these regulations before they are adopted and finalized.
Seclusion and restraint are dangerous for children and can even be deadly. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), there were more than 280,000 instances of seclusion or restraint during the 2013-14 school year nationwide, with nearly 220,000—more than 75%—of those instances involving students with disabilities receiving services under the IDEA. Virginia law requires the regulations governing seclusion and restraint to be consistent with the Fifteen Principles contained in the U.S. Department of Education’s Restraint and Seclusion Resource Document. The proposed Virginia regulations contain some strong measures to protect students from these harmful practices, but they remain inconsistent with the Fifteen Principles and must be improved. The Virginia Board of Education needs to hear from parents, students, and advocates across the state to protect children from these dangerous practices.
WAYS TO ADVOCATE
- Submit a written public comment to the Virginia Board of Education on the proposed regulations. In your comment, please state your support for the Coalition for School Safety (CISS) platform (below) and ask the Board to ensure that the proposed regulations are consistent with the Fifteen Principles, as required by law. Make sure to share your personal experiences with these dangerous practices if you are comfortable doing so. Comments may be submitted online at townhall.virginia.gov or by email to Emily Webb, Director for Board Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for written comments is April 19, 2019.
- Attend the Virginia Board of Education’s public hearing on the proposed regulations on March 21 in Richmond. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11:30 AM in the 22nd Floor Conference Room of the James Monroe Building (101 N. 14th Street, Richmond, VA 23219). Board members will receive public comments on the proposed regulations. Speakers will be asked to limit remarks to three minutes per person, and written remarks are also encouraged—individuals should prepare 11 copies (enough for all Board members). If you would like to sign up to speak, please contact Sonya Broady, administrative assistant to the Board, at email@example.com. Make sure to voice your support for the CISS platform (below).
COALITION FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF SCHOOL SAFETY PLATFORM
The platform items below may be used in your written comment or verbal remarks at the Board meeting. Please make sure you state your support for the CISS platform and share your own experience with dangerous seclusion and restraint practices.
CISS Recommendation 1: The Board must keep the protection in the regulations to prohibit restraint and seclusion solely to prevent property damage.
CISS Recommendation 2: The Board must keep the requirement in the regulations for schools to make reasonable efforts to provide same-day notification to parents when seclusion and restraint are used and to provide written reports of restraint and seclusion incidents.
CISS Recommendation 3: The Board must add an explicit prohibition on prone restraint. This form of restraint is extremely dangerous and is prohibited by the Fifteen Principles. The recommendations cannot be consistent with the Fifteen Principles and comply with Virginia law unless they contain an explicit ban on prone restraint.
CISS Recommendation 4: The Board must omit the carve-out for seclusion of students during the investigation of alleged code of conduct violations. Placing a child in a room they believe they are not free to leave is seclusion, and it is dangerous. This loophole in the regulation would allow schools to seclude students for behavior as minor as possessing a cell phone or lying, and it must be closed.
CISS Recommendation 5: The regulations must clarify that restraint and seclusion may be used ONLY when necessary because of an “imminent threat of serious physical harm to self or others.”
CISS Recommendation 6: The Board must eliminate the exclusion of “incidental, minor, or reasonable physical contact or other actions designed to maintain order and control” from the purview of the regulations. This language is subject to broad interpretation and could result in undocumented and unregulated restraints occurring under the guise of “reasonable physical contact or other actions designed to maintain order and control.”
OTHER TALKING POINTS
- Over 120,000 students were restrained or secluded nationwide in the most recent school year for which there is data. These dangerous techniques have injured and traumatized countless students.
- Seclusion and restraint are dangerous. A Congressional Agency documented 20 students who died in restraint; four said they could not breathe before they died. In Southeastern Virginia, school staff forced a 10 year old with disabilities into a locked cinder-block seclusion room, breaking his hand and foot bones. Children in seclusion rooms have injured themselves, been electrocuted, and suffered great physical and psychological harm. Seclusion and restraint are disproportionately used against students with disabilities and African American students.