South Dakota considers restrictions on restraint and seclusion in schools

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The South Dakota Department of Education began talks Thursday to restrict school officials from physically restraining students in cases of emergencies.

South Dakota is one of few states in the nation that currently does not have guidelines for restraint and seclusion in schools.

Unlike medical institutions and other facilities that receive federal health funding, schools are not required by the federal government to address seclusion and restraint.

Non-violent crisis management trainer Lezlie Larsen, who works for the Southeastern Cooperative in Beresford, SD told ABC9 that knowing how to mediate is the best tool for teacher in a state without guidelines.

“The hope is that you intervene at the lowest level possible so that you don’t escalate into a situation where you would have to use physical interventions,” said Larsen.

Tiffany Johnson, a teacher at Alcester-Hudson Elementary School told ABC9 she completed one of Larsen’s non-violent crisis management sessions a year ago.

Johnson says the skills she learned help her defuse tense classroom situations.

“I’ve actually used them quite a bit, especially the deescalation component because a lot of kids get frustrated easily so we have to try and help that situation out,” said Johnson.

A spokesperson for the South Dakota Department of Education told ABC9 that the group is discussing restrictions on the practice of restraint and seclusion to prevent unfortunate situations from arising.

State education officials will meet again Friday with the South Dakota Advisory Panel on Children with Disabilities to discuss what steps should be taken to address the restraint and seclusion.

Advocates for restrictions against the practice say special needs students are most vulnerable.

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