Emergency Safety Interventions
Sometimes students become wild. Really wild. Dangerously wild.
Of course it doesn't happen often for most students, but some of our most needy children do occasionally demonstrate aggression and dangerous behavior during school hours. It's not a pretty sight, but it's one that most teachers are familiar with experiencing at least once in their careers. Usually the children that engage in such destructive and dangerous behavior do so for only a few terrorizing seconds and will stop on their own volition.
However, sometimes our school faculty and staff have to get involved to ensure the safety of all of our students - both the aggressor and the bystanders. That's why many school districts require training for faculty and staff in effective and safe methods of seclusion and restraint for managing these difficult situations. It would likely be difficult for any individual to determine the safest method of responding to an student when they are throwing desks around the room (and often those desks are directed at the adult who would otherwise be trying to respond!) That's why our faculty and staff is trained in the proper response methods prior to the situation when they'll want to use them.
Seclusion and restraint are two alternative methods of handling these aggressive students. Seclusion simply means to seclude the aggressive student to an alternative location; usually to a "safe room" or "alternative room" within the school. Restraint simply means a to engage in a physical hold on the student so that he or she cannot hurt self or others. If you need a more formal example, you can look at Virginia's state definition of seclusion and restraint, here.
Social and Legal Issues
The traditional use of seclusion and restraint have taken criticism recently. Advocacy groups maintain that seclusion and restraint may be equally as dangerous to the student as if no action was taken to prevent further dangerous behavior.. Policy makers want to ensure that these safety measures (seclusion and restraint) are safe for everyone involved, and have put very specific regulations into effect to ensure compliance to best practice in these areas. On a related note, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released information to the US House of Representatives that found that there are no federal laws restricting the use of seclusion or restraint, but that many states have their own policies in place. See the report here.
As of April 2012 , there were 30 states that have specific policies about the use of S/R practices in schools. Of those 30, there are also 13 states that are directed all students, while the other 17 only address the safety and needs of students in special education programs. The US Department of Education has recently offered some information, but not definitive direction, on their site.
In Kansas, we no longer refer to "seclusion and restraint" largely due to the highly-politicized and criticized negative connotations this term resonates with many people. Instead, we now use "Emergency Safety Interventions" to cover a broader set of measures including the former seclusion and restraint methods.
For more information about how ESI is implemented, tracked, and reviewed, check out the KSDE webpage devoted to the topic. For some more information regarding Kansas special educational usage of ESI, see this great guidance page.