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Speak Out: How Long Should Teachers Be Able to Restrain Students?

The parent of a 9-year-old student with Down syndrome says four adults held the boy down for 45 minutes at a Bethesda elementary school.

 

How long should teachers and administrators physically restrain students whose behavior may put other students or teachers in danger? 

Maryland law says no longer than 30 minutes, potentially putting Bethesda's Burning Tree Elementary School in violation.

Cami Fawzi, the mother of Marcu, a 9-year-old boy with Down syndrome, said he recently was restrained by four adults for 45 minutes, WJLA.com reports.

Fawzi told the television station that her son was doing well at the school but still struggled with controlling his impulses. One day he threw his bowl of pasta and flung himself to the floor, she said. He tried to hit his head on the floor.

Fawzi said staff members held the boy down on the cafeteria floor and the school’s crisis team responded, restraining his arms and legs, his mother said, for 45 minutes. 

A spokesperson for Montgomery County Public Schools couldn’t speak specifically about Fawzi’s allegations. According to school district policy, restraint is used as a last resort, said Dana Tofig, public information officer for MCPS. 

He said restraint is a broad term for any time an adult uses any kind of physical action to keep students from harming themselves or other people. It can include placing a hand on a child’s shoulders to guide them somewhere.

Instead of restraint, Tofig said every MCPS campus has a crisis team trained to de-escalate situations in which a student is endangering himself or another person. The team typically tries a range of strategies that have nothing to do with restraint, he told Patch.

WJLA.com reported that Montgomery County students had been restrained for more than 30 minutes 15 times over the last school year.

Tofig said most of those cases were at RICA (Regional Institute for Children and Adults), a school that is operated jointly by MCPS and Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The department’s website describes RICA as a “residential, clinical, and educational facility serving children and adolescents with severe emotional disabilities.” 

“The regulations for the length of time of restraint are different at DHMH than they are for education,” he said. “That is an issue that is being discussed.”

What do you think: Is 30 minutes too long to restrain a child? Should children with demonstrated behavioral challenges be restrained? Tell us in the comments.

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