Seclusion and Restraint in Schools: Connecting Research, Policy, and Practice
University of Kansas
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Seclusion and restraint are aversive behavioral practices used in schools for control and punishment. The practices were first used in psychiatric hospitals as a means of control over patients. Eventually, the practices began being used in schools alongside other aversive and exclusionary discipline practices, including corporal punishment, suspension, and expulsion. Limited research has explored the connection between policies governing the use of seclusion and restraint and practices in schools. Grounded in organizational theory, this study analyzes the impact of policies on seclusion and restraint practice in 18 states through a multi-phase analysis. The first phase of the analysis explored trends in practices across the U.S. related to discipline, seclusion and restraint, and inclusion of students with disabilities using geo-mapping. After identifying the 18 states for further review, the second phase used a quantitative analysis to identify predictors of seclusion and restraint in each state and with pooled data of all the selected states. The final phase reviewed policies from each of the 18 states on seclusion and restraint to identify similarities and differences. The findings suggest that seclusion and restraint practices will not disappear from the repertoire of teachers simply through policies and mandatory prevention. However, gradual steps must be taken to connect stakeholders and shift from a culture of discipline and control to prevention and inclusion. Policy and research must be utilized as levers to make this change possible.
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