Texas educators forcibly pinned down students with disabilities as many times in 2009 as they did in 2008, despite efforts to curb the practice in public schools.
The static numbers hide dramatic drops in restraints in many large school districts. Because many smaller school districts reported restraints for the first time in 2009, statewide numbers remained virtually unchanged.
Of the 10 school districts that reported the most restraints of disabled students in 2008, all but one saw fewer restraints in 2009. The Northside school district in San Antonio reported 1,604 restraints in 2009 — up almost 13 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, Leander’s restraints dropped by 55 percent. Austin’s fell by 22 percent. And Garland more than halved its restraints.
Advocates for children with disabilities say it’s a good sign that restraints appear to be dropping in many large school districts — though they question whether the practice is being phased out, or whether districts have simply changed their reporting method.
“If there are some drops, I think it’s entirely random,” said Steve Elliot, an attorney who reviews school districts restraints for the non-profit Advocacy, Inc. “There is no evidence the state has been doing anything about it.”
And they say restraints, which are dangerous and are supposed to be used only as a last resort, are still far too prevalent in Texas schools. In both 2008 and 2009, Texas educatorsrestrained students with disabilities roughly 18,000 times a year — an average of 100 times a day. In some cases, the children were injured, suffering everything from bruises and black eyes to broken bones.