Formal complaints about teachers’ response to disruptive students have stopped since the state updated and clarified its rules last spring, according to a state Department of Education report released Thursday.
There have been no formal complaints about teachers restraining or secluding disruptive students, only occasional calls from parents, who have not pursued the complaint process, said Deborah Friedman, the department’s director of policy and programs.
The changes to “Chapter 33” were part of a years-long effort to better define what constitutes restraint and seclusion of a student, define when and how a teacher can restrain a student, and spell out mandatory reporting requirements to parents, local school officials and the state.
Parents, educators and education experts gave passionate testimony on the issue in packed committee rooms last year.
“I think this is a job well done,” said Rep. Joyce Maker, R-Calais. “I haven’t heard any complaints.”
Several other legislators agreed.
The changes were made in response to concerns from teachers who felt they could not intervene with disruptive students except under extreme and specific circumstances.
Those changes “alleviated many of the concerns,” says the report by Stephanie Galeucia, student assistance coordinator for the education department.
“It appears that teachers and school staff feel able to keep control in classrooms, and that these changes have not triggered a rash of parent concerns,” wrote Galeucia, who contacted various schools and advocates to gauge the impact of the changes.
Educators say that, in some cases, restraint or seclusion is needed to give children “time out” periods or keep them from hurting themselves.
Among the changes is a requirement that schools report incidents to the state annually. The first data, released in September, showed that more than 850 students were physically restrained and hundreds were placed in seclusion.
Friedman said the department is working to get a better response rate from schools next year. Only 92 of the state’s 171 districts reported data in the initial survey, despite mandatory reporting.
The districts that reported had 3,752 instances of physical restraint in the past year, involving 860 to 1,220 students.
She said the education department is also following up on some specific concerns raised by Atlee Reilly of the Disability Rights Center.
Reilly told the department that while calls from parents initially went down after the changes, the number ‘is creeping up,” regarding the definition of “escorting” a student, and whether a child is considered to be in seclusion if a school official stands in a doorway and essentially blocks the child from leaving a room.
More than 30 states have passed laws regulating restraint, and federal legislation has been proposed.
“Overall, it sounds like a good job in finding clarity,” said Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Lincoln.
Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at: