Stoughton Area School District officials will take a closer look at how schools deal with students placed in seclusion or restraint by staff due to behavior in the light of some inconsistencies in reporting incidents.
District director of student services Keli Melcher gave a presentation at Monday night’s school board meeting on the district’s state requirements to report data on the use of seclusion and restraint.
She said Wisconsin’s Act 125, from 2011, defines restraint as “when you immobilize a part of a student’s body … so they can’t move,” where seclusion is considered putting a student in a location and “not allowing them to leave.” She said staff members at the schools are trained in “nonviolent crisis intervention” where they are given “certain maneuvers that you can use and what you cannot” when dealing with extreme behavior problems.
“They’re not going to use seclusion or restraint unless it’s absolutely necessary for safety,” Melcher said.
There were 108 incidents last school year, up from 65 reported during the 2017-18 school year.
Huge increases were seen at Kegonsa (24 to 44) and Sandhill (two to 33). River Bluff was down, with 20 incidents last year compared to 26 the year before. Stoughton High School reported no incidents after reporting one in 2017-18.
Board member Frank Sullivan asked Melcher why the spike in numbers.
“We have some kids in crisis, and a few of these kids are new to the district, and I think we’re trying to figure that out and work on that social-emotional regulation,” Melcher said. “As you can see, most buildings don’t have tons of kids that are being restrained.”
Melcher said while last year’s data showed an increased number of students with “significant struggles with emotional regulation,” there were also inconsistencies in data reporting from building to building. She said a goal this school year will be to correct some of those inconsistencies that could make some statistics misleading.
“Major behavioral referrals are down across the district, but we still have to shore up how we’re reporting it, because if we’re not reporting it accurately, we’re not getting accurate data,” she said. “So we’re really going to start looking at how we’re training people ... on how we’re going to document these events. That’s one of the big takeaways when I look at the data.”
Melcher said the data indicates several points of needed improvement, including “regrounding” in PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) and equity work and continued professional development and de-escalation training for staff.
“There are going to be things that are going to be required in the reporting now to really help guide us through this work,” she said.