The Maine House recently passed the Maine Keeping All Students Safe Act LD 1373, but the Maine Senate, unfortunately, rejected it. The most controversial part was the seclusion ban. The House has amended the bill to strike the seclusion ban. While this is extremely disappointing, the bill still contains worthwhile measures, such as a ban on prone restraint.
However, several senators are still reluctant to pass the bill. They need to hear from us before June 30th. Ask them to pass LD 1373 and ban prone restraint and better regulate restraint and seclusion. This is a civil rights issue, a human rights issue, a constitutional rights issue and a child’s right issue. Please reach out to the following senators and ask your friends and family to do the same (and be sure to tell any of them if you’re a constituent):
email@example.com (D – Bangor, and Hermon)
firstname.lastname@example.org (D – Waldo County)
email@example.com (D – York County)
firstname.lastname@example.org (D – Wyndham area)
email@example.com (D – Old Town and Orono)
firstname.lastname@example.org (D – Lincoln County)
email@example.com (R – Washington County)
firstname.lastname@example.org (D – Portland)
trey.stewart@Legislature.maine.gov (R – Aroostook County)
Send them a short email in which you briefly share your experience about how restraint and seclusion have impacted your family, and why they should support LD 1373.
Below is a letter sent on behalf of the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint.
Hello, my name is Guy Stephens. I am the founder and executive director of the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint (AASR). AASR is a community of over 13,000 parents, advocates, self-advocates, teachers, school administrators, paraprofessionals, attorneys, and other related professionals working together to influence change in the way children are supported in schools. The mission of AASR is to educate the public and to connect people who are dedicated to changing minds, laws, policies, and practices so that restraint, seclusion, and other abusive practices are eliminated from schools in Maine and across the nation. I am writing to you today to express our support for LD 1373.
Restraint and seclusion are outdated crisis management strategies used in many schools across the state of Maine. Physical restraint is exactly what it sounds like, a personal physical restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head freely. Restraint is a technique often used in law enforcement settings, and at times can be deadly force. Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving, much like solitary confinement. These interventions are dangerous and have led to lifelong trauma, serious injuries and even death in students, teachers, and staff.
According to federal guidance restraint and/or seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child’s behavior poses an imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others. Restraint and seclusion should be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff. The important wording here is “serious physical harm”, these measures are not intended merely for unsafe situations, noncompliance, or minor behaviors, but rather to situations that could result in death or serious bodily injury. As such based on federal guidance restraint and seclusion should be exceedingly rare. However, it has been found that restraint and seclusion are occurring far more frequently in schools across the state of Maine and often not limited to situations that involve imminent serious physical harm. In 2020 Maine reported 17,262 instances of physical restraint and 4,417 instances of seclusion. One private school system, The Margaret Murphy Center for Children, reported a significant portion at 10,606 physical restraints and 1,085 seclusions. Why are some schools reporting such high levels of restraint and seclusion? Dr. Michelle Hathaway, director of the Margaret Murphy Center, would tell you that “These students, often the size of grown adults, will often be aggressive to other students and will push, hit, bite, kick, choke other people in their classroom whether they are staff or other students.” Why? What needs are not being met? Behavior is communication, what is a child’s behavior signaling? Interestingly the students that are most often restrained and secluded are children with disabilities (autism, ADHD, ADD and others), Black and brown children, very young children (6,7 and 8 years old), and children with a trauma history. One must accept that these young and often disabled children are exhibiting behaviors that are so dangerous that they could lead to death or serious bodily injury. The real question here is why did they have over 11,000 crisis situations at the Margaret Murphy Center for Children? The school would no doubt tell you that they work with some of the most challenging children in the state. However, there must be a way to work with the children in their care without using restraint and seclusion. In fact, there are far better ways of working with children. Schools that serve a similar population of children have reduced and eliminated restraint and seclusion. Why can’t the Margaret Murphy Center for Children reduce and eliminate the use of these practices? Why do they spend more time defending their practices and less exploring modern evidenced-based practices? Change is hard, but it is necessary.
Seclusion is a form of solitary confinement and should never be used on children. It is neither educational nor is it therapeutic. While children are often placed in seclusion cells by poorly informed or misguided educators under the belief that somehow putting a child (most often disabled) in a room against their will and not letting them out will help the child to regulate – it will not. Children need the help of a well-regulated adult when they become dysregulated, as they often lack the developmental capacity to do so on their own. Children are likely to become more dysregulated when confined to a seclusion room and often urinate or defecate in response to traumatic stress. Nothing is calming about being forced into a seclusion room against your will. The prohibition on seclusion has been removed from the proposed legislation, but it should be revisited in the future.
Maine should prohibit the use of any form of restraint that can cause positional asphyxia, including prone and supine restraint. While school staff sometimes believe that restraint can be done safely and that they need restraint and seclusion as “tools” to keep themselves safe this is a myth. The data supports that the use of restraint and seclusion increases the chance of injury to teachers and staff. When you hear stories of staff being injured, it is most likely to occur while the staff is attempting to restrain a child. Anytime we have children and staff in fight or flight mode we increase the likelihood of injuries to everyone. We must work to minimize the use of any restraint techniques, and probit prone and supine restraint which have resulted in the death of many children in schools across the nation.
There are far better ways to work with children that avoid the need for crisis management. Our schools should be moving towards neurodevelopmentally informed, trauma-sensitive, biologically respectful, relationship-based ways of understanding, and supporting all children. Unfortunately, many schools, left to their own devices, continue to mistreat children within their charge. I would be happy to chat with you about alternatives and what has been successful in other states.
We can make schools in Maine safer for children and staff while reducing and eliminating the use of restraint and seclusion, but we need your help. Please support LD 1373 and let us know if we can assist in any way possible.
Founder and Executive Director
Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint