DRA Releases White Paper Calling on State to Implement Binding Educational Standards and Law Regarding the Use of Restraint in Arkansas Schools

Little Rock, AR – Today, Disability Rights Arkansas (DRA) released a white paper entitled, “Protecting Arkansas Students with Disabilities:  The Need for Binding Educational Standards and Law to Address the Use of Restraint in Schools.”  The white paper educates individuals on the need for enforceable standards related to the use of physical restraint in Arkansas schools.

“All students attending school in Arkansas deserve to learn in an environment where their needs are supported and where they are not subjected to unnecessary and harmful restraint,” says Cassie Howell, staff attorney at DRA.  “In 2017, Disability Rights Arkansas should not continue to receive calls from parents of students with disabilities in Arkansas schools who have been restrained for reasons that should have been addressed by a more positive behavior approach.”

One such call that Disability Rights Arkansas received involved a nine-year-old student who was restrained by a school resource officer after pulling the fire alarm at school.  The officer put the student into a prone restraint, handcuffed him with his arms behind his back, and placed his body on top of the student’s back for several minutes until the student’s family arrived and demanded he move. This is one of the most dangerous forms of restraint because it can cut off the individual’s airway resulting in serious injury or even death. The student was not being aggressive and was not posing an imminent danger to himself or others.  The student’s wrists remained sore for a week following the restraint. The student’s family later learned this was not the first time the student was restrained, though they had not received any prior notification of earlier incidents.  This should not be occurring in our schools.

In 2014, the Arkansas Department of Education issued Advisory Guidelines that have the necessary components to protect students from these aversive techniques. In addition, the Autism Task Force discussed the use of restraint in schools in 2014, and legislation was drafted that mirrored suggestions by The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion. The legislation also included many of the provisions contained in the Advisory Guidelines, though it ultimately was never introduced; therefore, there are currently no mandatory standards for school districts to follow and no enforcement mechanism in place to ensure the safety of Arkansas students when it comes to the use of restraint in schools.  As the examples in the white paper show, physical restraints continue to be used on students with disabilities, including the most dangerous type of physical restraint, contrary to the recommendations included in the Advisory Guidelines.

Disability Rights Arkansas recommends that the State either enact the previously drafted model legislation or adopt the Advisory Guidelines as binding authority and require that school districts implement these important standards and protections for students with disabilities.

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