Coming to a Classroom Near You: Lord of the Flies

In 2015 Virginia enacted a law requiring the Virginia State Board of Education to develop regulations limiting the use of involuntary seclusion and restraint as tools to maintain order in public school classrooms. The state now is close to finalizing the regulations, reports Community Ideas Stations.

Putting students in isolation or employing mechanical constraints should be used only “when there is a serious danger to the child or to others in the environment,” says Colleen Miller with the Disability Law Center of Virginia.

How widespread is the practice? In 2015 Chesterfield County reported secluding students a total of 80 times, and restraining students a total of 29 times. Henrico reported six instances of seclusion and 21 of restraint; the City of Richmond reported zero instances of seclusion and 41 of restraint. However, a public radio investigation suggests that actions are under-reported. An investigation uncovered hundreds of instances that never got reported in Fairfax County in 2015. Also, Powhatan and Hanover County public reported no cases to federal authorities.

Furthermore, civil rights advocates worry that the new regulations are still too tough. They don’t explicitly prohibit the practice of restraining students by placing them face down. Also, notes Rachael Deane with the Legal Aid Justice Center, “We are concerned that a student — even if they’re not physically prevented from leaving — if they don’t realize they’re free to leave, then there’s still a seclusion type situation going on.”

Bacon’s bottom line: These new regulations follow the implementation of new policies in school districts across the state designed to limit the referral of students to law enforcement and to limit the use of short-term and long-term suspensions as disciplinary measures. Instead, schools are moving toward a more therapeutic approach that emphasizes counseling troubled students and collaborating with parents. If the new disciplinary philosophy proves to be ineffective, schools will have fewer tools to maintain order in the hallways and classrooms.

Here’s a prediction: As teachers and administrators are increasingly deprived of tools for punishing disruptive behavior, order in the classroom will continue to deteriorate. It is the nature of children to push the limits of acceptable behavior. If parents and adult authorities fail to establish clear boundaries with consequences, children will continue pushing until they find boundaries. If students know there are no sanctions for disruptive behavior, no amount of counseling and guidance will deter them. When students make the rules, we end up with the Lord of the Flies.

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2 responses to “Coming to a Classroom Near You: Lord of the Flies

  1. If we compare the photo of the “Lord on the Flies Young Gentleman” that sits atop this post, against the “Boy or is it a Girl” photo that sits atop the “Good Conversion Therapy Vs. Bad Conversion Therapy” post that immediately proceeds this post, if we simply ponder those two photos, we will understand the current state of our nation. You know the nation I mean. Or do you? I don’t.

  2. After reading your article I had to get a wordpress account just to give you my opinion. As a mother of a son with disabilities, who was restrained and secluded in VA…I think I can reasonably tell you that your logic is inherently flawed. You make the assumption that the majority of kids being restrained and secluded are neurotypical and obviously “bad” kids who deserve a good punishment. And they aren’t. The kids being restrained and secluded are kids with disabilities and I guarantee you they aren’t pushing boundaries on purpose. There is no malice and malcontent. They push boundaries because they have a disability like Autism, ADHD, down syndrome, bipolar disorder, learning disabilities. They may not communicate with words or lack the social grace to understand they are making a teacher mad or accidentally disrespected him/her. These are also kids who, by the nature of their disability being a cognitive disability, are the most likely to be adversely impacted long-term by being repeatedly restrained and secluded….against their will. Make no mistake, this is a civil rights issue. No child should end up with a diagnosis of trauma and PTSD from having adults forcefully hold them down or put them in a locked closet because they dont communicate as effectively as a neuro typically developing child. Expecting a cognitively disabled child to act like a same age neurotypical peer is cruel and more than unreasonable. When a teacher’s request is not complied with…..whoops….off to the seclusion room for Little Johnny. Because schools do not have the same federal requirements as a psychiatric hospital, they use restraint and seclusion much more broadly, and how they see fit. Their guidelines may say that the child has to pose a risk to himself or others before being restrained but that is non-enforceable. There are no regulations and because of this, it is used for minor issues and frankly, abused. This issue is much larger than what you touched on and that does a disservice to the topic.
    The very real impacts restraint and seclusion in schools are causing without federal regulations are traumatized families and children. A great many of these children end up never psychologically recovering from it. Imagine as a child, you went to school but didn’t really understand what you were being asked to do. Maybe you would become frustrated and crumple up your assignment. The teacher yells at you and says you are being disrespectful and you tell her you hate math anyway. She doesn’t understand that the numbers jump around right when you were doing long division and you can’t explain that to her anyway because you can’t get the words to sound right when you talk. In her anger she gets in yout face and in a raised voice says to pick up your paper. Everyone is looking at you, your embarrassed, you hear a kid call you a freak, you throw the wadded up assignment at his face. Your teacher now grabs you by the arm and yells she needs assistance. A man comes in and grabs you by the other arm and lifts you out of your seat. He puts you in a hold as he carries you out of the room. Then you get put in a room that is the size of a closet, no windows, a magnetic lock clicks into place. They are supposed to let you out when you calm down, but that doesn’t often happen. Now you missed lunch and your favorite subject was missed. Maybe you have to go to the bathroom. Will they ever let you out? You start to panic. Maybe you urinate on yourself out of fear because it seemed like you were in there forever. They are disgusted with you and force you to clean it up. You are pretty sure you missed your favorite class now. So…next time in math, something again happens like that..this time you know where they are taking you. You start to panic before you are even in the room. You punch the man taking you to the room in an effort to not go to the room because you are so scared. If the school provided evaluations and services like they are legally obligated to do, this learning disability could have been identified. Maybe it is identified and they offer no services or support to help you. In an effort to save money, many schools dont do the evals they should or dont provide the services that are in a child’s IEP
    . I just had a teacher admit to me that often a service hours for 15 hours a week end up being 3
    . And, IEP is federally enforcable. In an effort to regain order, when no federal regulations are in place, teachers do the easy thing. And it isnt the moral or legal right thing.

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