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Mothers and Disability rights asking for more regulations on student restraint rules

MADISON, Wis. (CHANNEL 3000) -  At a Capitol news conference Tuesday, mothers of children who were restrained in schools shared their stories and said there was a lack of notification by school districts about the incidents.

The advocacy groups recommended changes to the law to better protect students across the state. Among the recommendations were requiring districts to report seclusion and restraint data to the Department of Public Instruction, a change in what data must be collected and reported and changes in training. They're also hoping to require schools to submit incident reports to parents, and include in those reports the actions of the staff as well as the student.

adison mother Amy Puccio said her 8-year-old son, who has autism and ADHD, was restrained and secluded more than 20 times in one month at his elementary school. She said she was not notified as required by law.

"When I finally saw all of the seclusion and restraint reports, I wanted to die," Puccio said. "I could not believe it. I was in shock."

Puccio said her son began to try to choke himself to get someone to respond to him in the empty room he was placed in.

She said once Madison's student services and behavior team was made aware, team members stepped in to help.

"They moved quickly when they realized the severity of what had happened," Puccio said. "But a lot of damage has been done."

Representatives from the Disability Rights Wisconsin, Wisconsin Family Ties and WI FACETS were at the Capitol in Madison Tuesday morning to announce a report detailing the number of seclusion and restraint incidents that have happened in public schools, as well as how well they were tracked. The groups said a law passed in 2012, Act 125, highlighted the issue and prohibited some types of restraint, but numbers from 2014-2015 indicate students are still inappropriately secluded and restrained, repeatedly.

The advocacy organizations collaborated to put together the report compiling data from 410 school districts in Wisconsin. The report noted that in 2013-2014, 3,585 children were secluded or restrained in a total of 20,131 incidents. Eighty percent of the students who were restrained or isolated had disabilities.

Madison school officials said they use restraint and seclusion methods as a “last resort” largely in elementary schools.

“Now there may be times of restraint and seclusion [when the] student regains their composure, they’re ready to learn and they’re going back to class in 5-10 minutes versus being sent home,” Executive Director of Student Services for the Madison School District John Harper said. “It looks like our numbers are high but in the long run we feel like we’re retaining more of our students and engaging them in learning.”

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