Restraint and seclusion in Wisconsin schools allowed, but not tracked

Samantha West:

When Amber McGinley looks at her 9-year-old son, she sees a kind and loving little boy who loves helping her in the kitchen, doing puzzles and playing with electronic devices.

She also sees a little boy who faces significant challenges at school.

The third-grader has autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, sensory processing disorder and vestibular issues, and he receives special education services at Ferber Elementary.

He sometimes becomes aggressive and violent when he’s upset or overly stimulated. He yells and throws objects. He threatens and hits and scratches and pushes his teachers.

When that happens, school staff may physically restrain him or seclude him in a room separate from his classmates.

On those days, he comes home from school withdrawn, sometimes with cuts and bruises. Teachers and administrators tell McGinley their actions were the only option, as he was presenting a “clear, present and imminent risk” to physical safety — the only time seclusion and restraint can be used, according to Wisconsin law.