Advocates for the rights of children met in Hartford to talk about how to reduce the number of students being restrained or secluded in school. Part of the solution involves training educators on alternative ways to handle behavior problems.
Roughly half of the state’s school districts have been trained in what’s called positive behavior interventions and supports, or PIBS. It’s a program designed to limit restraints and seclusions of students with disabilities. Many of these kids have autism, and these incidents often lead to injuries.
Dianna Wentzell, the recently appointed commissioner of the the State Department of Education, describes PIBS as a multi-layered approach that aims to improve how schools deal with problem behaviors that are often the result of an underlying disability or mental illness.
“Tools, training and guidelines – all of these play a really important role in making sure that kids have the best chance possible of having a response to their behavior in the classroom, or in other settings, that promotes their learning,” Wentzell said at the Hartford meeting.
A proposed bill at the state -- S.B. 927 -- would limit the use of one type of restraint, and would also require the state to track the use of restraints and seclusions on students who are not in special education. Federal legislation would end the use of seclusion and limit restraints to only emergency situations.
But parents should be included in the writing of new guidelines, says Brenetta Henry, a family advocate.
"Parents need to have input and trainings and also to be a part of the conception of writing that training. So, these are some of the things I think we need to think about," Henry said.
Last year, there were over 30,000 recorded incidents of restraint or seclusion in Connecticut, with more than 1,300 resulting in injuries, and more than two dozen of those injuries requiring emergency medical attention.