Pa. School Controls Classrooms Without Harsh Restraints


In some schools, similar outbursts have brought a muscular response from school staff. According to a 2009-2010 study by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, students with disabilities are disproportionally restrained or secluded in school. In reviewing 85 percent of the nation's students, the study found students with disabilities represent 12 percent of students in the sample, but accounted for nearly 70 percent of the students who are physically restrained by adults in their schools.

Many of Centennial's students come from schools where they say they were restrained face down by school staff, locked in tiny, cell-like "scream rooms" for hours and bound with string around their hands or feet if they misbehaved or refused to do their work. Public and private schools across the country use these techniques as a means of discipline and punishment. Centennial school doesn't believe restraining and secluding children will change their behavior.

WATCH an interview with Centennial students.

George says the techniques are unnecessary and only used at Centennial in the most dire circumstances and when there is imminent threat to the student, teacher or others.

Several students from Centennial shared with ABC News what they said were their experiences at other schools. Nine-year-old Bobby Mullen recalled the fear he felt after he misbehaved in class. "They had this really big man that would pin me to the ground," recalled Mullen. "It really hurt."

Ethan Shumway, 14, remembers suffering harsh consequences when he took a break from his schoolwork. "They would immediately put you in a restraint," Ethan claimed. "They would literally just lay on top of you, you can't move and it's really hard to breath."

At her previous school, 11-year-old Jordan Peterson said she was dragged by the wrists and put in a seclusion room after she would get upset and start yelling. "They'd lock you in there and it was dark, there's no windows, and you're just stuck there for the whole day," Peterson recalled. "No one there with you, you felt scared. Even for the bravest person in the world, it's still really scary."

"I've been restrained many times," said 10-year-old Dayne Cruz. "They actually hurt and I get really angry from that. It isn't a very pleasant thing to be restrained."

The use of restraints and seclusion rooms has been increasingly controversial, especially as high-profile cases spark outrage and media attention. That occurred when the mother of a Kentucky boy with autism came to school to discover her son in what looked like a duffle bag, but was a specially designed bag, with airholes, for restraining children. A Mississippi community voiced complaints when a school there was found to be handcuffing children to a stair railing. The principal said it was to keep unruly students from dashing off campus and into a busy street.

In Arizona and Washington State, parents voiced anger when they discovered their children were being locked in so-called "scream rooms," often for hours at a time.

In 2009, Rep. George Miller, D.-California, began pushing federal legislation that would enact strict national guidelines around the use of physical restraints and seclusion in schools.

"There are thousands and thousands of children that have been traumatized, that have been injured at the hands of the caregiver and it's just unacceptable," Miller said. "My quest is to make these children safe."

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