Should students with behavior problems be strapped down?

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Tens of thousands of students, most of them disabled, are strapped down or physically restrained in school, and disability advocates hope that a new Education Department report detailing the practice of "seclusion and restraint" will spur federal action to end it.

The report, compiled and made public for the first time by the department's civil rights arm, revealed that 70 percent of students subjected to the techniques have disabilities.

Secluding and restraining children is controversial, and there are currently no federal standards on the use of the techniques in schools.

The American Association of School Administrators says using these techniques as a last resort in volatile situations protects students and faculty from physical harm and keeps some children with behavioral problems in schools who might otherwise go into residential institutions.

But advocates say that the use of seclusion and restraint is far too culturally accepted in schools and has led to abuse and that Congress or the Education Department should act to set federal standards to curtail the practice.

They point to high-profile news reports and a Government Accountability Office study in 2009 illustrating cases of children as young as preschool age duct taped to chairs and locked alone for hours.

The GAO, Congress' investigative and auditing arm, said it couldn't determine if these types of allegations were widespread, but the agency did find "hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to the use of these methods on schoolchildren during the past two decades."

In recent cases, the mother of a Kentucky boy with autism said when she went to her son's school, she found him stuffed in a canvas duffel bag in the hallway.

And, Connecticut lawmakers are weighing a bill that would require the state to report how often special education students are isolated because of emotional outbursts after recent incidents in Middletown, Conn., where special education students at a school were allegedly isolated in "scream rooms" during outbursts.

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