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The Coalition for the Improvement of School Safety’s work represents a two-year effort that began in earnest when Delegate Betsy Carr asked CAC Program Coordinator Ian Danielsen and MSW Student Lauren Weidner for a needs assessment regarding students with disabilities within Virginia schools. This research led to the formation of the Coalition for the Improvement of School Safety (CISS).
A Bill was then filed in 2014 by Delegate Patrick Hope on behalf of the ARC of VA to require The Commission on Youth to study Virginia’s “report card” with regard to school policies regarding restraint and seclusion. This study, which was informed heavily by the Coalition, yielded findings which gave Virginia a poor score and illustrated the disproportionate number of restraints and seclusions of students with disabilities. Another reason for the poor score, evidenced heavily in “How Safe is the Schoolhouse?” by Jessica Butler, was the inconsistency within schools, as currently, there is no statute or regulation specifically governing the use of seclusion and restraint in Virginia’s public schools.
Seclusion and restraint refer to safety procedures in which a student is isolated from others (seclusion) or physically held (restraint) in response to serious problem behavior that places the student or others at risk of injury or harm.*
Ian Danielsen, CAC Coordinator, said, “This is relevant to SCAN’s mission because of its goal to protect all children”. Ian is a member of the coalition and has been working to pass statewide regulations.
The Coalition’s goal is for the Board of Education to promulgate regulations on the use of seclusion and restraint in public schools consistent with the 15 principles outlined by the U.S. Department of Education regarding restraint and seclusion. According to the Coalition, adopting the 15 Principles as a framework for Virginia’s law will promote a shift toward preventing problematic behavior through the use of de-escalation techniques, conflict management and evidence-based positive behavioral interventions and supports.
In November 2014, the Commission on Youth unanimously voted to introduce legislation to address this issue.
“These statewide regulations would help the safety of all students, but particularly students with disabilities,” says Ian Danielsen. The 15 principles include de-escalation techniques, requirements for parental notification, and required training.
Nationally, over 110,000 students were subjected to restraint and seclusion in 2011-12. And while students with disabilities make up just 12% of all students, they represent 75% of those physically restrained and 58% of those secluded. The data showed that restraint and seclusion were used disproportionately upon students with disabilities and minority students.
“Children are being emotionally and physically hurt through restraint and seclusion practices.” said Ian. “We aren’t calling for a ban entirely, just limits.”
To get more involved with SCAN’s advocacy, please email Ian Danielson at IDanielsen@grscan.com.
*Source: Virginia Department of Education. (2009). Guidelines for the Development of Policies and Procedures for Managing Student Behaviors In Emergency Situations in Virginia Public Schools Focusing on Physical Restraint and Seclusion.