More Than Just the "Restraint Class"

October 27, 2010
Theresa Maez
Colored pencils next to a stack of books.

At Academy School District #20, we have embraced the CPI philosophy of Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM for more than 13 years. When Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training was first introduced to our staff, some were skeptical and some were referring to the program as the "restraint class."

Once the course was presented, the concepts that behavior does not occur in isolation, that staff should look for patterns, and that staff have the ability to intervene early, allowed staff to begin seeing behavior differently. Our district is fortunate to have eight CPI Certified Instructors who are passionate about the philosophy of Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM.

In the beginning of our implementation, we primarily trained special education staff. However, the word soon spread and now we are training administrators, regular education staff, and the entire staff in a few of our schools. Staff also attend yearly refreshers.

Over the years, we have seen a decrease in physical intervention across our school district, as staff are better prepared to de-escalate students with verbal interventions and recognize how the behavior relates to the CPI Crisis Development ModelSM.

Our staff are more aware of early interventions and are better equipped to manage acting-out behaviors. When physical intervention is used, trained staff are required to complete the necessary documentation. The intervention must comply with both CPI standards and Academy School District 20 policy.

Our positive behavior staff, which includes CPI Certified Instructors, review this documentation. Our Instructors are available to visit schools as well as the classroom, problem solve with trained staff, and fine-tune the interventions. We have also been called to different buildings to problem solve ways to de-escalate and maintain safety with specific students. This may involve verbal de-escalation, removing things from the environment, facilitating room clears, and learning how to maintain physical safety during restraint based on the individual student’s needs and behaviors. We also incorporate this information into our future trainings.

It is refreshing to hear from our staff that the course is very beneficial when interacting with our students with special needs, autism, and emotional problems. We hear on a recurring basis how confident and reassured staff have become with our annual refreshers and training. It is good to hear the accounts of what is working and what is needed to improve our interventions.

The energy and enthusiasm that the staff exhibit is invigorating to me as an Instructor. The one-on-one problem solving that we Instructors offer to our staff is invaluable, and the staff confidence has increased after reviewing their interventions with our Instructors.

The CPI COPING ModelSM has been instrumental for problem-solving. Staff are more able to identify what's working and what changes need to be made. With these tools, we have noticed that fewer physical interventions are needed in our schools. No longer is physical intervention staff’s first thought.

Needless to say, the danger of physically intervening is a major concern. There is always a danger present to the student, as well as the staff. The danger of restraint-related positional asphyxia is ever-present, and our trained staff are very aware of the danger.

Trained staff members are also much more aware of the fact that they cannot make anyone do something he or she does not want to do. We can only set up a structure for learning to take place. The challenging, aggressive, and violent behavior our staff are faced with on a daily basis is the major reason I am very passionate as a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Certified Instructor.

I want to give staff members the opportunity to have as many resources as possible available to them. As an Instructor, I find it exciting to hear what's working in the classrooms. No longer thinking that a physical intervention is the only option, trained staff are able to view behavior more positively.

At the annual refresher classes, it's invigorating to experience the problem solving that's shared among staff. Staff members share how the training has been applied and is working in their buildings. They also share strategies with others: "You might try this at your building."

The staff are now more aware that Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training is the program that teaches us how to avoid a physical intervention by focusing on early verbal intervention. It is so much more than the "restraint class."

Theresa Maez is a Master Level CPI Certified Instructor for Academy School District #20 in Colorado Springs, CO.

This article was originally published in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Safe Management of Disruptive and Assaultive Behavior. Certified Instructors, log in to read more JSM articles.

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