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Behind the Numbers

Seclusion & Restraint In Virginia Private Schools Serving Students With Disabilities

Investigative Series By VPM & WHRV

The use of seclusion and restraint of students has come under scrutiny by states and the federal government following reports of injuries, emotional trauma and even death. According to Virginia code, seclusion is defined as the involuntary confinement of a student in a room from which they’re prevented from leaving, and restraint is holding a student to restrict movement.

In Virginia, the practices are legal. Some families and educators say the procedures are necessary to protect students and staff. Other parents and advocates say the methods are sometimes misused. For decades, many states including Virginia lacked regulations about when and how these procedures should be implemented.

In two recent school years, Virginia private schools serving students with disabilities reported nearly 10,000 total seclusions and more than 18,000 total restraints. In this four-part series by VPM and WHRV, we look into the two schools that reported the highest numbers of seclusions and restraints over the combined 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. We also examine Virginia’s policies and standards for data collection and staff training, as well as alternatives to seclusion and restraint developed by local educators.

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