Report Documents Shortcoming of Maine Restraint and Seclusion Law

 chairs and blackboard in a classroom

by Andy Jones
May 2, 2017

Disability Rights Maine released a new report April 19, documenting the results and defects of a now four-year-old law limiting the use of restraint and seclusion of students in schools.

Under the law, restraint and seclusion techniques can only be used against students where there is a danger to the student or to others, and when less intrusive interventions have failed. The law requires school districts to provide quarterly data of their use of such practices to the state Department of Education, as well as assemble annual reports.

According to Disability Rights Maine, data from the past four years shows that students with disabilities make up 86 percent of students restraint or secluded, despite making up just 16 percent of the student body.

In one instance, a 10-year-old student with autism was secluded 75 times in a three-month period, five times for longer than 45 minutes. Another 6-year-old was secluded 25 times in a 46 day span.

Furthermore, schools failed to provide the required quarterly reports almost 30 percent of the time, and even fewer of the schools provide comprehensive annual reports.

Disability Rights Maine also contends that many of the schools underreported their use of restraints and seclusion. In particular, they pointed to schools' failure to report as a restraint the scenario where school staff involuntary move students from one place to another, or to report as a seclusion when adults block students from leaving a room.

“An average of over 13,000 uses of restraint or seclusion are reported each year by Maine schools,” said Ben Jones, staff attorney for Disability Rights Maine, in a news release. “And due to failures to report required data, the actual number of restraints and seclusions is no doubt higher.
 
“We still do not know how often these emergency interventions are being used. DRM is hopeful that the report will provoke questions, analysis, and action by schools and MDOE, and that these actions will lead to a reduction in the use of these dangerous and ineffective interventions.”

The full report can be read here [PDF].

Click here to read the National Disability Rights Network’s nationwide report on restraint and seclusion “School is Not Supposed to Hurt [PDF].”

Disability Rights Maine and Disability Rights Washington are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Maine and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.