AUSTIN (CBSNewsTexas.com) — The I-Team has learned that at least 83,416 students have been retained in Texas schools in the past three years.
It’s a controversial topic that CBS News Texas and our stations across the country have been following for months.
The I-team has toldof students who do not appear to pose threats at school are restrained by teachers, police officers and security personnel.
CBS News Texas is headed to Austin, where advocates are supportingto ban restraints in our schools unless a student poses a threat.
It is legal to detain children in school in Texas. Most of the lawyers, legislators and parents interviewed by the I-Team all agree that restraint and/or arrest is always necessary if a child endangers himself or herself or threatens another person. But many advocates and parents say too many children are being held even though they pose no threat at all.
TEACHER IN EDUCATION & COMING STUDENT ASSOCIATION
Sara Easley is an education student at Baylor University. She graduates next month and will soon have her own class.
She has spent months training in a classroom at the Midway Independent School District. She says this is where she learned alternatives to restraints.
“We go through, ‘Are you in this range of emotions, this range of emotions or this range of emotions?’ We have them color coded.”
Easley explains how they talk to their students. “We’re really trying to use that to find out where kids are and offer than opportunities to self-soothe.”
She says the hands-on experience has trained her to separate students in need, ask them to take breaks, go for walks, step outside and give them fidgets.
The future teacher is also a student lawyer. She is so strongly opposed to restraining and arresting children in front of their peers, she tells the I-Team, that she is talking to her professors about teaching alternative strategies to students reading to teachers.
And Baylor seems committed to listening.
I-TEAM QUESTIONS TEXAS UNIVERSITIES ABOUT TEACHER EDUCATION
The I-Team reached out to several major Texas universities and asked the following questions:
Do students studying to become teachers in your education program take any classes or undergo any training related to alternative methods related to restraints (and arrests) in our Texas classrooms?
If so, which course?
If no, are there plans to incorporate this discussion into your curriculum in the future?
Baylor University sent a very thorough response, which ends by saying that the university is discussing de-escalation strategies inside the classroom.
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY’S ANSWER
Texas legal requirements regarding schools and teachers, including disruptive behavior and student seclusion, are addressed within several education courses at Baylor. The Texas Educator Code of Ethics and basic legal issues are taught in the freshman course, TED 1312, prior to a supervised in-school experience with students.
Before the start of the student teaching year, in which Baylor students teach full-time four days a week, Baylor students attend a seminar on school law led by an attorney who is also a member of a local school board.
Students on the special education receive specific content in the following courses:
- EDP 3376, Applied Behavior Analysis, focuses on managing disruptive behavior using positive behavioral interventions.
- EDP 4352 reviews the Texas Administrative Code regarding restraint and time-out policies, among other legal requirements regarding disruptive behavior.
Special education faculties emphasize children’s safety. To keep children safe, teachers must be well-trained in positive behavior intervention so they can deal with disruptive or dangerous behavior in a way that is safe and respectful of their students.
Baylor is committed to providing the best possible education for future teachers focused on student well-being. To that end, school-wide content discussions are underway, focusing on de-escalation strategies, school safety, and the psychological and spiritual implications for teachers.
TEXAS A&M ANSWER
“… at present students here learn many techniques aimed at classroom management in preparation for their future professions. We do not see these preparations as alternatives to restraint or arrest, as we neither see student restraint nor arrest as a role for a teacher. “
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
“… would like to politely decline participation in the vote.”
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS
“Our students learn ways to create community in classrooms, ways to plan engaging learning experiences, and ways to manage disruptions that maintain hope for positive outcomes. We have specific courses in the program that teach new teachers how to create positive environments , and it’s a consistent line in all the classes they take.”
SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY
“…our teaching and learning department at the Simmons School…offers a special education behavior class that discusses the escalation/de-escalation cycle, but not in the context of a specific restraining alternative. And there is a course on the Policy and Leadership Track course, that discusses legal and ethical implications of the use of physical force in discipline.”
TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY
TCU did not send the I-Team a statement. Instead, CBS News visited the Texas university to better understand how researchers there are teaching future teachers.
TCU states that it is the only university in the country with two lab schools on campus that offer early intervention for children with developmental delays.
Dr. Endia Lindo is associate professor of special education and faculty coordinator for the College of Education Graduate Studies. Dr. Lindo strongly opposes restraining a student unless absolutely necessary to avoid a potential threat or harm to self or another.
“All of our teachers talk about classroom management as an area they need support or help with,” says Dr Lindo.
She works with her students to explain the tactics needed to deal with children with disabilities who may be having a difficult time, as well as children who may cause disruptions or potential problems inside a classroom.
Dr. Lindo says professors teach with a focus on de-escalating situations that can trigger kids.
“Understanding ‘Hey, this kid is really turned off when they’re frustrated with this moment or this space or as we transition.’ Well, what do we do to add in that transition?”
She says they teach and research positive and “better ways” to curb the triggers that “…cause the behaviors that can lead to restraint.”
Dr. Lindo expresses how important it is for educators to build a classroom filled with “community” and trust so that students feel safe at school.
“Sometimes we tend to lean into behavior versus maybe planned ignoring or just kind of de-escalating, stepping away. . . . You know, they yell and scream, you soften, and so on.”
Dr. Lindo explains that the next step is to step back and breathe.
She says she encourages future teachers to reinforce positive behavior. “Instead of saying, ‘Hey Johnny, sit down,’ it’s now got everyone’s attention on that kid and maybe embarrassed him/her a little.” She says alternatively, “I could say, ‘Oh, I really like how you guys have a space.’ And usually that child is just off track or distracted.”
In environments like TCU’s laboratory schools and in traditional schools, Dr. Lindo that at least one person should have the appropriate training to restrain children if and when necessary. But she says it should be done as rarely as possible, and only when used to stop a child who poses a threat.
“We want to minimize these incidents, whatever the case, whatever the population,” says Dr. Lindo and explains why restraint is not in the curriculum and not what she wants to see inside schools.
“…there are just some places that shouldn’t happen.”
‘I HAVE GOT BLUE MARKS FROM STUDENTS’
Sara Easley will be Mrs. Easley in her own classroom this fall. She definitely says she never sees herself holding a child back.
She emphasizes that she understands the challenges teachers face and that she has experienced them firsthand; she says she has been hurt by a student in the classroom and she has seen other educators get hurt.
“It’s not uncommon to get concussions. I’ve had bruises from students,” Easley says. “One of the teachers at my current campus had a broken knee.”
Easley hopes the alternatives she’s learned to control situations will prevent the problem from ever occurring in her schools. She is very concerned about causing “traumatic suffering” to children.
She does not believe that enough teachers are properly trained to properly control themselves.
In the coming years, Easley says she’s trying to get the conversation on the table about regulating mental health and emotions in classrooms and school settings.
“I wish it wasn’t a conversation we’ve had to have, but it is, and it’s sad.”
Easley says she is now working with the Baylor School of Education. She wants to be part of the discussion to help make school spaces safer for students and pupils.
“Advocacy for schools is just very important to me.”