Students with disability more likely to be restrained, secluded in school

Students with a disability were more likely to be restrained or secluded in school in response to student behavior problems compared with students without a disability, particularly in affluent school districts, according to recent research from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

For the 2009 to 2010 school year, researchers found there were 2.6 instances of restraint for every 100 students with disability vs. 0.1 instances for every 100 students without a disability on average across school districts nationwide. Researchers also found seclusion rates followed a similar pattern.

Most school districts did not employ restraint and seclusion techniques; 59.3% of school districts reported no instances of restraint of a student with a disability and 82.5% did not report instances of seclusion. However, study results showed a small proportion of districts report exceedingly high rates.

Overall, school districts with higher concentrations of poverty and larger black and Hispanic populations were associated with lower rates of restraint and seclusion, whereas rates of restraint and seclusion are more than twice as high in school districts of low poverty and low diversity.

“Schools today are tasked with implementing positive techniques that can effectively manage the difficult and sometimes violent behaviors of the most challenging students with a disability, which might lead some schools to more extreme measures,” the researchers wrote. “If certain disability types elicit more frequent restraint and seclusion, and the frequency of such disabilities differs by school type, this may help explain why rates differ across school poverty and racial composition.”

For more information:

Gagnon DJ. Variation found in rates of restraint and seclusion among students with a disability. Carsey Institute National Issue Brief #67. 2013. Available at Accessed December 19, 2013.

Disclosure: The researchers are employed by the Carsey Institute.

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