Education Week - May 17, 2017 - 13
At the same time, federal data could be
capturing overcounting. The 3,000-student
Columbia-Brazoria district in southeast
Texas is one of many across the country that
stands out from neighboring school systems
because federal data show a relatively high
82 restraint or seclusion incidents among 250
students with disabilities.
That's wrong, said Lynn Grell-Boethel, the
director of special education for the district for
16 years. A clerical employee was erroneously
recording children being sent to the office as
seclusions, she said, and police arrests were
wrongly recorded as mechanical restraints.
Typical seclusions, such as isolating a child
in a special room for that purpose, are not allowed under Texas regulations.
The actual number of restraint incidents
for students with disabilities in the 2013-14
school year, Grell-Boethel said, was seven.
The district is making efforts to reduce restraint rates, Grell-Boethel said.
"You really have to know the kid, and you
really have to develop strong relationships
with them," she said. "These are community
schools, so a lot of people in the schools know
the family, know the kids, know the situation."
The 42,000-student Marion County, Fla.,
district is also trying to lower its restraint
and seclusion rates. Florida requires districts
to report numbers and take corrective action
if the incidents reported are higher than state
averages. According to state data, the central
Florida district reported 467 restraints and
377 seclusions in 2015-16, more than any
other similar-sized state district.
Heidi Maier, who was elected superintendent in November, knew the issue would
have to be addressed, said Elizabeth Fields,
the district's special education director. The
school system is looking at a variety of methods, from eliminating seclusion rooms to providing more teacher training and setting up
rooms where students can voluntarily calm
"We need a lot of verbal de-escalation training," Fields said. "That needs to happen to all
teachers. General education teachers are saying those kids are in my room, too."
Reece L. Peterson, a special education professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
and an expert in reducing restraint and seclusion, supports more training, but he is sympathetic to teachers who say that's just one
more activity to fit into an already-packed
"What we need is a few states to be models
of what could happen," he said.
Research analyst Alex Harwin and Research
Intern Jack Williams contributed to this report.
* Columbia-Brazoria ISD
Differences Among Districts
a 3,000-student district in Texas,
stands out for its relatively high rate
of restraint or seclusion, based on
numbers it reported to the federal
government. But the district's director
of special education said those
numbers were inflated due to
A National Picture
The U.S. map shows reported rates
of restraint or seclusion for the
2013-14 school year. Districts shown
in blue reported no such cases.
Anomalies in the numbers reported
to the federal government caution
against comparing districts.
SOURCES: Education Week Research Center
Analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection,
2017; map data visuals produced by Research
Intern Jack Williams
Restraint & Seclusion
By the Numbers
incidents were not linked to emergencies,
Last year, the federal Education Department's civil rights office entered into a settlement agreement with California's Oakland
Unified district after investigating a case
where a student was restrained more than 90
times in 11 months. Stuart Candell, who has
autism and was 9 at the time, was often held
face down by two to three adults, according
to federal investigators. Prone restraint has
been linked to suffocation deaths. The district
was required to sever ties with any private
schools that use the technique.
Now a 13-year-old in 7th grade, Stuart
is not being restrained any more, said his
mother, Bonnie Candell. While she did not
know about all of the restraint incidents, she
knew the school used the technique.
"You think, well, they must know what
they're doing," Bonnie Candell said.
Per 100 students
Variation in Districts' Rates
The Department of Education's Civil
Rights Data Collection offers the only
information available on the use of
restraint and seclusion nationwide. The
data that is captured show that students
with disabilities and boys are most often
subject to restraint and seclusion. State
policy does not appear to fully determine
variations in reported use of such
* One out of 5 districts have students
that were restrained or secluded
during the 2013-14 school year.
* Nearly 70,000 students covered under
the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act were restrained or
secluded in 2013-14.
* Those students account for over
200,000 incidents of restraint or
* One in every 100 students with
disabilities is restrained or secluded.
* Four out of 5 students with
disabilities who are restrained or
secluded are males.
SOURCE: Education Week Research Center analysis
of Civil Rights Data Collection, 2017. Some student
counts were rounded to protect individuals
from being identified.
About this series
Educators and the public are aware that
achievement gaps often separate students of
color from their higher-achieving white peers,
leave low-income students lagging behind their
better-off peers, and restrict opportunities for
students with disabilities. Less obvious are the
mechanisms and circumstances that contribute
to those academic differences.
This installment is the third of a series
intended to shed light on the "hidden inequities"
that keep education from reaching the goal of
leveling the playing field for all students. Each
report is being produced by Education Week
staff writers working in collaboration with the
Education Week Research Center. Watch for
the June installment, which will examine school
closings and high student-mobility rates, their
impact on educational quality, and their disparate
effects on different school communities.
EDUCATION WEEK | May 17, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 13