Restrictive therapeutic facilities — inpatient psychiatry units, residential facilities, group homes and juvenile detention facilities — serve the most challenging youth in society. Before admission, these children and adolescents have often been on the receiving end of countless detentions, suspensions, expulsions, restraints, seclusions and corporal punishment. Many have significant trauma histories.
WASHINGTON - Corey Foster, 16, was playing basketball with his friends at his school in Yonkers, N.Y., in April, when a staff member asked them to leave the court. What happened next is in dispute, with witnesses describing aggressive staff who escalated the situation and school officials who deny that. But the conflict ended with several staff members on top of Corey, who suffered cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at a hospital later that day. “It wasn’t known to me that they were touching my son,” said Sheila Foster, Corey’s mother, who was in Washington, D.C., on Thursday for a Senate committee hearing in support of federal restrictions on restraint techniques in schools. “If I had known Corey was being touched or tied or restrained, I wouldn’t have had him in that school.”
Foster was on Capitol Hill at a hearing, held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, on how schools can adopt positive alternatives to isolating students in rooms or restraining them in response to challenging student behavior.
Schools cannot put children in seclusion rooms as a form of punishment anymore, and must limit the use of physical and chemical restraints. The State Board of Education approved new rules Thursday for handcuffing children, controlling them with prone restraint tactics, and giving them prescription drugs to control their behavior. These measures are now limited to situations where students are an immediate danger to themselves or others, or when calming techniques don’t work. Parents of 13-year old Jonathon King of Gainesville pushed for changes after their son hanged himself in a seclusion room in 2004. Jonathan was a student in the Alpine Program, a public school in Gainesville, Ga.
Their voices cracked with emotion as they recalled a devastating loss. Don and Tina King's 13-year old son Jonathan hanged himself after a teacher locked him in a windowless 8X8 closet called a "seclusion room." Jonathan was a student in the Alpine Program, a public school in Gainesville, Ga. for students with emotional and behavioral problems. A few weeks before his death in 2004, Jonathan told his parents that teachers had put him in "time out." "After he died, we found out that Jonathan wasn't in there for minutes," Don King said.