A new report from Connecticut's Office of the Child Advocate revealed disturbing numbers and accounts of children in public schools being restrained and secluded.
Seclusion includes placing children in locked rooms (such as utility closets), while restraint encompasses restraint by adults or by mechanical means.
The Hartford Courant notes that under Connecticut law: "[C]hildren may be restrained only in emergencies, where they pose a risk of imminent harm to themselves or others. Seclusion — defined as confinement in a room, as opposed to a therapeutic 'time-out' — may be used not only in emergencies but also as a planned intervention that is specified in a child's educational plan."
However, many Connecticut public schools use a broad definition of "emergency" in order to restrain children, and many have no "educational plan" to justify seclusion.
The Office of the Child Advocate's state report says: "Over the last 3 years, the Connecticut State Department of Education reported more than 1,313 incidents of a child being injured during a restraint or seclusion, with more than 2 dozen injuries categorized as 'serious.'"
The report also claims that during the 2013-14 school year there were "over 1700 of the reported incidents of restraint and seclusion lasted more than 40 minutes (716 of those lasted more than one hour) and 144 children were secluded or restrained more than 50 times."
A footnote at the end of the report says one student was restrained "more than 700" times (in the 2013-14 school year).
"The numbers are staggering," Mickey Kramer, who co-wrote the report, told ProPublica. "We realize that this is a pervasive, widespread problem."
The Office of the Child Advocate's report recalled one incident in which an autistic 9-year-old student was put into seclusion for failing to greet a visitor at a school. In another disturbing account, a 4 year old was restrained after throwing a puzzle in a school room. That child had a developmental delay.