Thursday, July 12, Senator Harkin (D-Iowa) the Chair of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP Committee) convened a hearing entitled, “Beyond Seclusion & Restraint: Creating Positive Learning Environments for All Students.” Watch the full hearing here. Check out CEC’s Restraint & Seclusion webpage for more information.
Longtime CEC member and former President of CEC’s Division, Council for Children with Behavior Disorders (CCBD), Dr. Michael George testified about his experiences working with children with emotional and behavioral disabilties, most recently at The Centennial School. Dr. George explained how he and his leadership team changed the environment at The Centennial School and dramatically reduced the use of restraint and seclusion procedures.
He discussed the real techniques he used with teachers to address their concerns about safety and change their focus to an entirely positive environment. He described how he assists teachers in identifying and understanding what triggers “negative” student behavior, and creating an environment that rewards good behavior. He also described the importance of challenging academics and increased student engagement. A parent of a student who attended the school and whose son has recently transitioned back to a general education environment in his local elementary school also testified about the great impact positive behavior supports have had on her son.
While Dr. George teaches in a special setting that only serves students with emotional and behavioral disabilities, Ms. Cyndi Pitonyak, Coordinator of Positive Behavior and Supports for Montgomery County Public Schools in Christianburg, Virginia discussed how her district reduced the use of restraints and seclusion throughout its public district. She also identified the need to train teachers and provide them access to the everyday expertise they need to deal with challenging situations.
Finally, Dr. Crimmins, a researcher from Georgia State University, discussed how since Georgia passed its law, approximately two years ago – banning most forms of restraint and all seclusion, there has not been an increase in incidents harming students or teachers.
Senator Harkin has introduced legislation that would create a federal minimum standard that would only allow the use of restraint in case of emergency and would ban seclusion, S. 2020, the bill currently has no co-sponsors and is unlikely to move anywhere soon. Regardless, CEC was pleased the hearing focused on the expertise and strong research base that exists and will continue to seek federal legislation to bolster training and research in this important area.