School districts cooperate with MSDE’s review of use of seclusion and restraints

MARYLAND – The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) is reviewing all schools and their use of restraint and seclusion closely, after a recent case involving discriminatory use of restraint and seclusion at Frederick County Public Schools.

Officials want to make sure all local school systems are treating students fairly when it comes to discipline. We sat down with an official from the Somerset County School district and it seems for them, they take a different approach. “We need to throw all our tools in the toolbox at a situation or at least try to before we have to use one of those last resort measures,” says Victoria Miele, Public Relations Specialist at Somerset County Public Schools.

An in-depth investigation at a Maryland school district found the district often resorted to seclusion and restraint in non-emergency situations; a measure we’re told is the last resort. “Very rarely does that need to be used, we try to deescalate as much as we can before we get to that type of a situation,” says Miele.

The state department says they’re looking in-depth at all school policies, and how they’re implemented. In response to the investigation, the state superintendent of Maryland schools, Mohammed Choudhury says, “Given the potentially devastating physical and emotional impact of restraint and seclusion on students and staff, as well the disproportionate use on students with disabilities and students of color, MSDE will work with our local school systems to eliminate the illegal use of these practices and increase system capacity to provide effective, positive means of behavior management.”

Meanwhile, Miele tells us, they have a plan in place for students who may have very significant disabilities. They focus on exclusion de-escalation tactics, like a brief voluntary time-out. Seclusion tactics are only used when a student is a danger to themselves or others, because not only is seclusion a last resort, she says it may even trigger past trauma. “We do not want to create that type of association with the student and school with the past trauma that they have.”

Wicomico County public schools also commented on the situation saying, physical intervention or restraint is only used as a very last resort by our Crisis Prevention Institute trained staff for situations in which a student is a danger to him or herself or others.” They add, “Our staff is trained on the latest nonviolent intervention techniques that enable them to quickly and safely recognize and respond to everyday crises.” 

Miele also says they’re looking forward to working with the state department and addressing their policies, for the student’s safety. “We are fully transparent with information and willing to learn new information and being able to incorporate that new information into our policies and hopefully improve it.”

We’re also told when having to use any restraints or seclusion measures, it’s documented and reported to the state. However, Miele says that it should always be a last resort measure. She’s hopeful all schools can adapt their policies to ensure the safety of all students, especially those who have a disability.

MSDE says if you are concerned about the use of restraint and seclusion, to reach out to their local boards of education and MSDE for support.

Categories: Education, Local News, Maryland