In the last five school years, the use of seclusion and restraint in Janesville elementary schools has gone down 77 percent.
Officials aren’t sure why it’s happening and said the numbers don’t necessarily indicate a trend.
“I think it would be fair to say there are numerous factors that may have attributed to the decrease in the seclusion and restraint rates,” Janesville School District Director of Pupil Services Kimberli Peerenboom wrote in an email to The Gazette.
“As each individual student and situation is different, it would be difficult to specifically say that one specific factor has attributed to the decrease as one working factor for one student and one situation may not apply to another student or situation,” she wrote.
Peerenboom will present the seclusion and restraint numbers to the school board today. The report is required by state law.
Between 2013 and this year, seclusion and restraint numbers at elementary schools fell from 469 to 106 with a drop each year.
In secondary schools, the numbers have gone from seven in 2013 to zero in 2017, but the numbers have gone up and down in the intervening years.
State statutes outline when students can be restrained or secluded and have definitions for each.
Seclusion or physical restraint can be used only when a “student’s behavior presents a clear, present and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or to others, and it is the least restrict intervention feasible,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. In addition, for physical restraint, the student must not have any medical condition that would be made worse by the restraint.
In both cases, the technique can be used only for as long as the student or the others around him or her are in danger.
The student must be constantly supervised while in seclusion and must have access to a bathroom, drinking water, required medications and regularly scheduled meals.
Rooms used for seclusion must be free of anything that might cause injury and must not have locks on the doors.
In her memo to the school board, Peerenboom stressed such techniques were considered the “very last effort to work with the student in regaining control of their behavior and in maintaining a safe environment.”
Peerenboom said it’s difficult to pinpoint why the num- bers have gone down and said everything could change next year, depending on the number and kind of students who move into the district.
For example, between the 2013 report and the 2016 report, the number of elementary school students involved dropped from 44 to 34, with decreases each year. But in 2017, the number of students involved in seclusion and restraint issues spiked to 107.
Even though the number of students more than tripled, the number incidents declined. The result: more students but fewer incidents per student.
Here’s one thing that has probably made a difference: In the past several years, the district has established standalone classrooms for students with emotional disabilities.
The class sizes are smaller, and teachers, students and staff work to address the underlying reasons for the students’ behaviors, Peerenboom said.
The goal is to give them the tools they need to reintegrate into traditional classrooms and help them function in the real world, Peerenboom said.
Several of the elementary schools have standalone classrooms for students with emotional disabilities, and two of the district’s three middle schools have such programs.
A third one might be started at Marshall Middle School.