Prefatory note added October 19, 2019: Recent discussion of the subject of this page may be found on the Kerri K. v. California subpage. The subpage discusses the case of Kerri K., et al. v. California, et al. which was brought in a state court in Contra Costa County v. California on May 15, 2019. The complaint asserts that the state and the country overuse restraints. It also challenges that high proportion students with disabilities make up of restrained students. Neither the plaintiffs nor the defendants are yet aware that reducing the use of restraints will almost certainly increase that proportion. The misunderstanding of this issue is also briefly mentioned in the Appendix to my “COPAA v. DeVos and the Government’s Continuing Numeracy Problem,” Federalist Society Blog (Sept. 12, 2019). Both this page and the Kerri K. page warrant some revision because the examination of underlying data has led me to believe that I overstate extent to which the high proportion students with disabilities make up of restrained students in certain states is a function of the infrequency of the use of restraints in the states. But the absence of a strong state-by-state inverse relationship between frequency of use of restraints and the proportion students with disabilities make up of restrained students (which absence is due to the fact that a great many factors affect patterns across states) does not call into question high likelihood that reducing restraints in any particular state will tend to increase that proportion.
This page may be compared to the Feminization of Poverty page, which discusses the curious notion that society would be somehow better off if, in addition to having poor people in economically disadvantaged family units, there were also poor in units that were not economically disadvantaged.
The Department of Education (DOE)is concerned about the unnecessary seclusion or physical restraint of public school students and believes that such measures should only be employed where the student presents a threat to the student’s own safety or the safety of others. See Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document (2012).
DOE is also concerned about the high proportion disabled students make up of persons who are physically restrained. A July 2015 document issued by the DOE titled “Addressing the Root Causes of School Discipline – An Educator’s Action Planning Guide,” which was created pursuant to contract with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), notes (at page 6) that “although students with disabilities represent only 12% of the student population, they comprise 58% of those placed in seclusion or involuntary confinement, and 75% of those physically restrained at school to immobilize them or reduce their ability to move freely.”
A March 2014 Issue Brief (No. 1) titled “Data Snapshot: School Discipline” discusses state differences in disproportionality in the restraint of disabled students in the following terms (at 11):
Students with disabilities (served by IDEA) and physical restraint: Across the nation, 75% of students subjected to physical restraint were classified as students with disabilities served by IDEA. Twenty-five (25) states had higher percentages than the national average. In Nevada, Florida, and Wyoming, students with disabilities served by IDEA represent less than 15% of students enrolled in the state, but more than 90% of the students who were physically restrained in the state. Nevada (96%), Florida (95%), and Wyoming (93%) reported the highest percentages of physically retrained students with disabilities by IDEA. Three (3) states had fewer than 50% of students subjected to physical restraint classified as students with disabilities served by IDEA. Those states were: Mississippi (40%), Arkansas (41%), and Louisiana (43%).
It is clear that in the view of the DOE, Nevada, Florida, and Wyoming have the greatest disparities while Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana have the least disparities.
Yet presumably students with disabilities, in particular those whose disabilities involving some type of behavioral disorder, are more likely than other students to present situations where they are threats to themselves or others notwithstanding teacher and administrator efforts to control the situation by verbal interaction with the students. The greater the lengths teacher and administrators go avoiding resort to physical restraints and the more effective they at doing so – by, for example, following the guidance in the DOE/AIR July 2015 document – the more resort to the use of restraint will be limited to students with behavioral disorders that prevent controlling the situation through verbal interaction. In states where teachers and administrators are highly effectively at verbally defusing situations where student behavior may cause harm to the student or others, almost all (or, ideally, all) restrained students will be students with disabilities (behavioral disorders).
Observers considering this issue must ask why themselves why society should want there to be restrained students who do not have behavioral disorders that prevent teachers and administrators from verbally resolving situations where a student is difficult to control. And they must recognize it is the states where students with disabilities make up a very high proportion of restrained that are likely to be most circumspect about the resort to physical restraint, as well as that the higher the proportion disabled students make up of restrained students, the fewer will tend to be the number of situations where disabled students are subjected to restraints.