As Biden Deems Youth Mental Health a Pandemic-era National ‘Crisis,’ Activists Say Banning Student Restraints More Urgent than Ever
An in-depth investigation published last week by The 74 highlights a stark reality in America’s schools: Each year, educators subject thousands of students with disabilities to physical restraints — a controversial practice that’s led to injuries and, in rare cases, death.
Now, as students face a surge in mental health issues — a reality that President Joe Biden deemed a national crisis during his State of the Union Address last week — disability-rights advocates say the need to curtail physical restraints in schools is more urgent than ever.
The investigation centers on Sydney, a Black girl from suburban Minneapolis who suffers from multiple disorders and was subjected to physical restraints by school police and educators on two separate occasions during mental health crises. The incidents, captured on video by police body cameras, unfolded prior to the pandemic.
After long stretches of remote learning and other instability, school leaders said they are seeing a spike in disciplinary issues and students acting out in ways that reflect those stressors. These types of behaviors could put them at greater risk of being physically restrained in school.
Special education attorney Wendy Tucker said the climate means it’s more critical to avert those traumatic physical interactions between young people and adults.
“Kids aren’t going to walk into the building, for the most part, in a better mental state than they did before” the pandemic, said Tucker, senior policy director at The Center for Learner Equity, a national nonprofit. “Kids are back in buildings after a lot of trauma and loss. How can you handle it now if you handled it like that then?”
Watch both full police body camera videos below:
By Mark Keierleber. Video by Jim Fields