Restraint and Prevention in the Ridgefield School District

April 14, 2014
Colored pencils next to a stack of books.

Special education staff and teachers and support staff who work in all educational environments deal with a variety of challenging and violent student behaviors every day. These behaviors can disrupt classroom time, hinder learning, and thwart the efforts of professionals who entered the education field in order to make a difference.

Two Ridgefield Press articles, "De-Escalation First: Crisis Teams Learn How to Keep Control" and  "Restraint: A Last Resort but Still Used in Schools," discuss these complex issues, as well as the incidence of restraint and seclusion in Ridgefield (CT) district schools. Schools in Connecticut have been required to report on the use of restraint and seclusion since the 2011–2012 school year.
In response to the latter article, CPI president Judith Schubert writes, “I urge readers to learn from this report and support initiatives which aim to assure that schools are a place where students feel safe and supported and teachers remain motivated teaching in safe school environments.”

The article focuses on how staff in the Ridgefield district deal with behavioral emergencies such as a student hitting, kicking, or causing self-injury. It quotes Ridgefield Special Education Director Karen Berasi, who says, “Our goal is always to solve the problem so restraint doesn’t have to be used at all.”

To achieve this, the district has implemented a variety of staff development initiatives, including training in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® strategies for prevention and intervention. Staff such as Veterans Park school psychologist Jen Haan teach their coworkers to look out for behavioral warning signs, focus on verbal de-escalation, and re-establish communication with students after incidents. Staff are also taught how to block and move away from strikes and grabs, and how to use body positioning—only in emergencies—to limit a student’s ability to injure self or others.

“School safety requires a commitment at all levels to prioritize staff development efforts which address not only ‘how’ to intervene in dangerous situations, but what might help prevent them,” writes Schubert. Read her full commentary

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