The Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board voted on April 19 to warn the subcommittee’s revised policy on restraint and seclusion in district schools. The policy bans the use of prone and supine restraints outright and was amended at the meeting to include a sunset on the exception to banning seclusion that currently exists in the proposed policy by June 30, 2024.

Section 3 of the proposed policy states: “The administrative procedures shall include at least the following components: 5. Notwithstanding Vermont State Board of Education Rule 4502.2, a prohibition on the use of seclusion in all district schools, except in situations where physical restraint is contraindicated for a particular student.” This was a sticking point for some board members, as well as members of the public who spoke at the April 19 meeting during public comment.


“I do think it needs to be in the policy to ban seclusion,” said Brian Dalla Mura, Duxbury, a former special educator and a former board member in the district who has been vocal in his opposition to the use of prone and supine restraints and seclusion in HUUSD schools. “Schools across the country and districts and states are finding ways to ban the use of seclusion. My ask is that you take more time to discuss it.”

“I feel like we are choosing to look away in the area of seclusion,” Maureen McCracken, Waterbury, said, after praising the board for taking on this matter. She is also a former board member.

Committee chair Ashley Woods, Warren, proposed an amendment to the policy. “I move to amend the restraint and seclusion policy for warning, specifically amend Section 3, Number 5 by adding the following sentence: ‘The exception for seclusion noted in the preceding sentence shall sunset on June 30, 2024.’ This policy is significantly more restrictive than Vermont law and represents the first attempt to ban prone and supine restraints in Vermont public schools. Like many fellow board members, I hear the concerns of many in our community [about] the rare exception that remains relative to seclusion. I do not believe there is a person at this table, including our administration, who believes that that is a preferred action.

“Our school [district] has made tremendous progress regarding the use of restraint and seclusion in the past year. We have had no instances of prone or supine restraint or seclusion in our schools to date [this school year], which is remarkable progress for the first year. The committee recommended a policy with a goal of eliminating seclusion in schools with a possible exception of a rare situation in which it is medically recommended that restraint is contraindicated and seclusion should be used first.”

“We as a committee see this as banning seclusion along with prone and supine restraints,” committee member Cindy Senning, Duxbury, said. “We are making the one exception, which we are now looking to sunset within a year. During that time, I would hope that we as a board would direct our administrators to develop procedures that would be used in the case of this exception … This gives us the time to develop those procedures that clarify the way we see our school district being able to respond over this next year.”

“It doesn’t feel like we’re ready for this,” board member Life LeGeros, Duxbury, said. “If we want to make a change, we have to do it. This is real harm that’s been perpetrated and we can’t say, ‘well, we have good intentions and we hope there’ll be a procedure maybe in a year.’ If we want to make an impact, now is the time to actually make it happen. If we can’t do it in this meeting, then send it back to committee.”

“We have seen tremendous progress this year in terms of a significant reduction in the use of restraint and seclusion,” board chair Kristen Rodgers, Moretown, said. “Change does not happen overnight or in one school year. We have made progress this year but cannot do this work in isolation,” noting legislation introduced by Representative Theresa Wood (D-Waterbury) to ban seclusion and prone and supine restraints in Vermont schools. Rodgers, along with vice chair Kelley Hackett, encouraged people to contact their legislators and the Vermont House Education Committee to express their support of the bill (H.409).

The board approved warning the policy with the amendment by a margin of 7-4 and the policy will be warned to vote to adopt at the board’s May 24 meeting.