Parents, advocates against seclusion and restraint policies talk with Va. Board of Education

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RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Parents and their advocates talked directly to the Virginia Board of Education on Thursday about how they see seclusion and restraint as harmful and psychologically damaging.

The board is working its way through adopting regulations governing the controversial form of behavior control.

“Two broken bones in his hand, a broken bone in his foot and an open wound that required immediate surgery,” said Heather Luke, describing to the board members what happened to her son Carson.

Teachers put him in a seclusion room, but caught his hand in the door. At the time he was in the SECEP program through Chesapeake schools.

“There is no reason that any public school in Virginia needs to have or should use a seclusion room. It’s not a prison, it’s a public school.”

Carson now goes to school in Maryland, runs 5Ks and goes to the prom. But other students have felt the effects of being locked away. A student described his seclusion room for the board — walls that were painted black, a dark tile floor, no desk, chairs or lights.

Luke also wants to get rid of restraint, where teachers use special holds or even straps to hold a student down.

“I’m extremely disappointed that the decision was made to allow prone restraints, which is when the child is restrained face down,” Luke said. “People are at much more risk of death because it restricts your ability to breathe.”

Cheryl Poe of Norfolk-based Advocating 4 Kids says record keeping on seclusion and restraint must be part of any regulations.

“African American students are more likely to have this happen to them. It’s a disparity. By not requiring some sort of data collection, it means that there is no overseer,” Poe said. 

Several steps remain before regulations would be adopted. 

“The governor gets another look at the regulation, then another review from the attorney general, and then there’ll be another opportunity later in the process for the public to weigh in, “ said Charles Pyle, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education.

The current public comment period runs through April 19.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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