Dr. Randy Boardman, CPI's executive director of research and development, recently submitted a letter to the editor of Education Week about the US Department of Education’s new data on the frequency of students being restrained or isolated. The following was published in the May 16, 2012 issue.
To the Editor:
A recent article, "Restraints on Pupils Variable" (March 14, 2012), shares several reports that offer various points of view regarding the use of restraint and seclusion. I would like to share mine, garnered from my 27 years of experience as a public school teacher and building administrator, and my 11 years at the Crisis Prevention Institute, or CPI, training and working with educators from around the world.
The only safe restraint is the one staff members are able to avoid with de-escalation skills. When faced with an aggressive or potentially violent student, educators will react based on the emotions of the moment, or react based on their training.
CPI advocates reducing the use of restraints and seclusion within schools; proper training for special and general education staff who do use such interventions within the guidance of approved regulation or policy; and assisting educators in moving toward restraint-free and seclusion-free learning environments. This is because the medical condition of "restraint-related positional asphyxia" is well-documented across the literature. Most often, this potentially deadly condition is the result of well-intentioned but untrained school staff members' use of a physical intervention that has gone bad, therefore compromising the student's ability to breathe.
Crisis moments occur when a student loses rational and even physical control over his or her own behavior. The dilemma of what to do when faced with a moment of crisis and potential aggressive behavior is not always simple. However, as staff members, the choice is still ours. We may not be able to control the student's behavior, but we can control our behavior. We can choose to escalate or de-escalate a student in crisis.