Deadly Discipline? Students Hurt, Dying After Being Restrained

Autistic, special needs kids handcuffed, restrained, suffocated.
3:00 | 11/30/12

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Transcript for Deadly Discipline? Students Hurt, Dying After Being Restrained
Well, tonight, an important investigation raising controversial questions about how far is too far when it comes to physical discipline and control in schools? For most kids, the worst they've got to fear from unruly behavior in class is a trip to the principal's office. But in some schools, students are receiving far more severe treatment, like being locked in windowless cells or stuffed into bags. Now, some of the footage you're about to see is not easy to watch. Here's abc's brian ross with a "nightline" investigates. Reporter: This surveillance video shows a high school student by the name on andre McCOLLINS, IN THE LOWER RIGHT OF The screen, about to go through what his school calls skin shock therapy for misbehavior. About 60 volts of therapy. There are no national standards for the punishments or restraints used onchool children, including those like andre, with severe behavioral difficulty. I can't believe they call themselves humans and do such a thing to someone who is sew vulnerable. Reporter: It is an extreme example, but perfectly legal. An abc news investigation found that only 17 states have specific laws that protect students from harsh, some say barbaric methods of restraint and other techniques. Some day, we're all -- i think we're all going to look back, we're going to say, "can you believe what we did here?" Why are they red marks all over him? Reporter: In dallas, this video was made by a mother of a 4-year-old, as he tried get a staff member to let go of her boy. In kentucky, a mother found her autistic 8-year-old son had been stuffed into a duffle back like this one, specially made to restrain children. And schools across the country are investing in specially built seclusion rooms, like this one, where young students can be locked up for hours. They'd lock you in there and it was dock. There's no windows. You are just stuck in there for the whole day. Reporter: At the age of 11, giordanos all too well what can happen. It's scary. Really scary. Even for the bravest person in the world, it's still really scary. Reporter: Now, some members of congress are trying to get such techniques prohibited or restricted by federal law. There are thousands of children that have been traumatized, they have been injured. Reporter: But it's opposed as too restrictive by school administrators. They say they need a range of techniques to deal with autistic stude students and others that are being main streamed into public schools. They tend to act out. And when they do act out, sometimes they become a danger to themselves or dangers to others. Reporter: This man agreed some of the techniques being used, including the electric shock seen on the tape are, indeed, too much. They're horrendous. It makes me sick. Reporter: He admitted some teachers do need more training. But he defended the use of some of the restraints others call barbaric, including the seclusion or scream rooms. If the situation warrants it, in order to protect the child from hurting himself -- Reporter: You don't think that's barbaric? Then I'm a barbarian. Reporter: But all too often, students have died after being restrained. The most recent, 16-year-old corey foster, of new york city. A surveillance tape showed the young man at a residential school for students with special needs as he apparently refused to stop playing basketball. Teachers and staff surround him. One, two, three, four, five. Reporter: And then, says his mother, sheila foster, they forced him to the ground. And now he's down. Pulling him down, yeah. Reporter: Tool says its staff used what they call a correctly performed and state approved therapeutic hold. And only after other deescalation techniques failed with corey. There was nothing therapeutic about that. Reporter: A short time later, corey foster was dead. The medical examiner ruled it an accident, that corey died of cardiac arrest while being subdued. Just looking at these pictures, knowing that I won't feel him hug me anymore, say, "i love you mommy." Yes. It's hard. Reporter: The centennial school in bethlehem, pennsylvania, says there is an alternative to the physical, hands on approach used in so many schools. Here, there are no seclusion rooms. And teachers almost never use any restraint, even though the students here all have a history of trouble or violence at other schools. But that isn't fair! Reporter: We watched as one student, 9-year-old vinny, started acting up in the classroom. The teacher separated him from the others but never put a hand on vinny. We walked away. We reminded him to use a calm body and polite words. Reporter: And that worked? It did. It may take awhile but it is better than putting my hands on him. Reporter: That's the philosophy that the school's director would like to see spread across the country. So, you doubt think these restraints, these seclusion rooms, you don't think they work? I do not. I think they contribute to the problem. Reporter: How so? They make children angrier. They make children resentful. They make children want to engage in more aggression, to get even. To get back. Reporter: And we heard just that from six of the centennial students, including jordan. You felt scared and upset and you were already angry. Reporter: They described how they said they were dealt with at previous schools. They cross your arms and they hold you like that. They had this really big man that pinned o the ground. They would just literally just lay on top of you and you would just be laying there, can't move. It was really hard to breathe. Reporter: Do you think that kind of thing works? Is that -- no. No. No. Makes it worse. Reporter: Makes it worse? It makes things worse because that's how I get angry and then I feel like bursting into flames. It isn't a very good thing to be restrained, as all. I think sometimes when you get upset it is always nice to get, like, a good hug or something. Reporter: But for now, what happens at this school is the exception, not the rule. For "nightline," brian ross, abc news.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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