The Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board voted at its May 11 meeting to review the district’s prone restraint and seclusion policy at a future meeting. Duxbury resident Life LeGeros spoke during public comment to urge the board to discuss the issue as soon as possible and ensure that prone restraints are not used in HUUSD schools. Former board member and district educator Brian Dalla Mura, Waterbury, spoke during public comment at a recent board meeting and wrote a letter published in a recent issue of the Valley Reporter urging the board to take up the issue. “Restraint and seclusion are meant to be a last resort and are unfortunately required from time to time. All districts should have strong policies that make sure all students and staff are kept safe by using the most up-to-date research-based practices. I encourage the board to vote yes on May 11 to take this item up,” Dalla Mura wrote.
Under Vermont Agency of Education Rule 4500, “Prone Physical Restraint means holding a student face down on his or her stomach using physical force for the purpose of controlling the student's movement … Seclusion means the confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is prevented or reasonably believes he or she will be prevented from leaving. Seclusion does not include time-out where a student is not left alone and is under adult supervision.”
The HUUSD’s current policy states, “It is the policy of the Harwood Unified Union School District that students not be subjected to inappropriate restraint or seclusion as defined by Vermont State Board of Education Rule 4500. It is the district/supervisory union’s intent to create and maintain a positive and safe learning environment, and promote positive behavioral interventions and supports in district schools. This policy is further intended to assist in creating a common understanding within the district/supervisory union of appropriate interventions by district staff.”
Some of the questions Dalla Mura’s letter posed included, “Does the district employ a school psychologist who consults with behavior support staff and special educators about restraint and seclusion? How are any possible contraindications such as, mental illness, history of physical and/or sexual abuse, intellectual disabilities, PTSD, or physical conditions identified? Does the district have a policy that requires educating parents about the risks associated with restraint and seclusion that are used on their children? Do the parents know what the seclusion rooms look like? Do the parents know what particular positions/holds are being used? Is there oversight to ensure transparency and that the district is making a good faith effort to educate parents? Has the district evaluated the safety of all restraint and seclusion techniques and identified any that pose higher risks, such as prone and supine restraints? Does the district have a process to review and analyze restraint and seclusion data each year to ensure that numbers are within an acceptable range and that student needs are being met?”
The board will review the district’s policy at a future meeting.