The first time I heard the words restraint and seclusion in the context of a school setting, it was a shock. I would never have guessed that young disabled children are sometimes physically restrained and forced into isolation rooms at school until it happened to my son. The thought that a child might be pinned to the floor by several adult staff for having a meltdown was not something I could have imagined.
How did these practices make their way into schools? It was not too long ago that most children with disabilities were not welcome in American schools. In 1970, schools in the United States educated only one in five children with disabilities, and many states had laws excluding most children with disabilities. In 1975, Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which opened the schoolhouse doors for previously excluded children (U.S. Department of Education, 2022). As children with disabilities gained access to education, schools had to determine how to support those they had not previously served. Unfortunately, this resulted in restraint and seclusion practices being used in schools across the country.