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Seclusion and Restraint Practices in Michigan Schools Result in Injury and Death

Students with disabilities suffer from dangerous practices in Michigan schools known as seclusion and restraint. Outdated techniques are still being used to manage challenging behavior, whereby school personnel tie down, pin down, and confine children to locked rooms or boxes. Research shows that these practices can actually exacerbate challenging behaviors, increase physical and emotional harm, and in some cases cause death.

Although at least 18 states have laws strictly limiting the use of seclusion and restraint in schools, Michigan’s policy does not.  It neither prohibits school usage, nor does it require adequate reporting and monitoring.

“The Children’s Health Act of 2000 strictly regulates seclusion and restraint in facilities receiving federal funds,” says Elmer Cerano, executive director of disability rights agency Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service. “These standards should apply not only to where children live, but to where they learn.  Currently, there are no standards in place for educational settings.”

In 2006, the Michigan State Board of Education adopted a policy entitled, “Supporting Student Behavior:  Standards for the Emergency Use of Seclusion and Restraint.”  While the policy is a step in the right direction for promoting best practices, such as positive behavior supports within the classroom, it is a policy and not a law. 

Recently, the National Disability Rights Network issued a report on seclusion and restraint in U.S. Schools titled, “School is Not Supposed to Hurt”, documenting nationwide use of abusive practices, highlighting children who have died as a result. To learn more visit the NDRN website at 

Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Inc. (MPAS) is in the process of collecting stories from individuals who are currently being subjected to these practices, or who have been subjected to them in the past.  The cases MPAS collects will be used to educate Michigan policy makers on the need to develop tough regulation and laws prohibiting the practice of seclusion and restraint.   

MPAS will continue to investigate current practices of excessive use of restraint and seclusion.  Individuals who have experienced seclusion or restraint in a Michigan school are encouraged to call MPAS at 800.288.5923, fax: 517.487.0827, or contact us through our website.

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Posted on:
December 18, 2012