The use of prone restraint and seclusion in the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) schools has been a hot topic of late. VTDigger even published a story this week about the issue specifically in the HUUSD, which data have shown has had the highest incidents of these practices in the state in recent years. Former HUUSD Board member and special educator Brian Dalla Mura raised the issue with the board last spring and has remained vocal in his advocacy to end the practices in HUUSD schools, most recently during public comment at the board’s meeting last week.




Dalla Mura urged the board to hire a consultant well-versed in the use of prone restraint and seclusion. “Clearly, the district is in desperate need of an expert,” he said via Zoom. He thanked new superintendent Mike Leichliter for putting a moratorium on the use of prone restraint in HUUSD schools effective at the start of the 2022-2023 school year and tasking a committee to review the district’s policy and use of these controversial practices. Dalla Mura called these actions “a great first start.”

He referenced the seclusion room at Brookside Primary School in Waterbury (formerly Thatcher Brook Primary School), which had the highest number of incidents in which prone restraint and seclusion were used in the state in recent years. He said the room was not well-ventilated, had no windows, a strong unpleasant smell and was “essentially a closet.” He called its use “inhumane” and “disturbing.” He recently reached out to the board inviting them to visit the seclusion room at Brookside to see for themselves. The Valley Reporter and Waterbury Roundabout will visit the room later this week and will report on that experience.

At its September 14 meeting, the board voted to form a subcommittee of board members to join the group of district leaders and educators tasked with reviewing the district’s policy on prone restraint and seclusion, which will present a preliminary report to the full board in January and a final report at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. The board decided to wait until its next meeting to appoint subcommittee members to give those absent at last week’s meeting the opportunity to express their interest as well as give all board members time to consider how they want to be involved.

Also, during the meeting, the board approved a request to allow the Harwood Union High School cross-country team to go on an overnight trip to Belfast, Maine, for the New England championships on September 30 and October 1. Co-captain and school board student representative Maisie Franke called the event “the highlight of the season.”