We have a student who wrecks the classroom. She tears down displays, shouts abuse and throws major, prolonged tantrums. Her parents are quick to accuse the school of mishandling her. The principal has told the class teacher to restrain the child and train the other children to leave the room, supervised or unsupervised, while this is happening. The teacher is uncomfortable with the idea of restraining the child, particularly because of the parents' attitude. Is the teacher allowed to refuse? The principal says it is her job to do this.
What you said
I work with extremely challenging students aged 14-16 and we operate a non-restraint policy, but we can request training and apply it if necessary. I am uncomfortable with using physical restraint and aim to avoid it if possible. Positive handling can be physically (and emotionally) draining and I would never encourage a member of staff to attempt this without at least one other trained member of staff being present. I'm not sure what would happen in a mainstream setting, but in my case an untrained member of staff would not be allowed to physically intervene and would never be expected to do so alone. This seems unreasonable.
I have a student who will wreck the classroom but thankfully does not harm anyone. I have been advised against restraint unless a student is going to hurt themselves or others. If the disruption becomes too much I evacuate the class and send for help, with me or someone else keeping an eye on the child from the doorway. Certainly do not restrain unless you are trained to do so. When I worked in a special needs school, we could only use moves a child had been risk-assessed for.
The expert view
You have the right to use restraining force in situations where it is necessary to prevent further harm, stop laws being broken, preserve order and so on. But you cannot be ordered to do so - it simply isn't safe in many cases. This is not a school specialising in behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, I presume? In such schools you may be required to restrain children, but this would be made clear in the recruitment process. This child needs to be removed to an exclusion unit until their behaviour can be amended. They certainly should not be locked into a mainstream setting where no one's needs are being met. Perhaps the principal would like to take the student for a few weeks and see what solutions they can come up with. I imagine they would be different from the paltry ideas on show here.
Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Read more from Tom on his TESConnect blog (bit.lytombennett) or follow him on Twitter at @tesBehaviour. His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum
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