Herald-Leader Editorial

Limit use of force against students

Ky. should outlaw abusive techniques

October 2, 2012 

A student who is locked in a closet or duct-taped to a chair is not having his or her educational needs met. That's obvious and should be reason enough for schools to find better methods for managing children's behavior.

Youngsters also have died as a result of physical restraint imposed by school personnel.

Thankfully, none of the deaths have been in Kentucky, though there is compelling evidence that Kentucky children are being put at risk by routine use of restraint and seclusion in some public schools.

More than 80 allegations of students in Kentucky being subjected to abusive restraint and seclusion have been reported over the past five years, involving children as young as 5.

A federal survey found that 70 percent of the students who are subjected to these methods are disabled. Many are being disciplined by teachers and administrators, including special education teachers, who have inadequate training.

In Kentucky, the state school board has decided to limit the use of restraint and seclusion, effective next year. The new regulation also requires that parents be informed when it becomes necessary to use physical force against a student.

Educators would still be free to use force when a child's behavior is endangering the child or others. Apart from that, restraint and seclusion would no longer be allowed in Kentucky public schools.

This will be no big deal for schools that already employ best discipline practices and have adequately trained personnel. Educators could still employ time-outs and in-school suspensions.

Schools that are not employing best practices should change their discipline techniques and their mind-sets, which is the point of the new regulation.

The training requirements are not onerous or unduly expensive since school districts could train a single employee to train others.

Districts also would be required to develop policies on the use of restraint and seclusion and to regularly review their use of these methods.

This self-examination will motivate schools and educators to adopt better strategies for meeting the needs of all students, which is exactly what the public schools should be doing in a state that can't afford to waste any human capital.

Some school administrators are protesting that the regulation is too vague and will put educators at risk. The state school board should hang tough and keep educating the educators about the benefits of smarter, more effective approaches to managing student behavior.

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