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Michigan Education Board Rolls Out Restraint Regs
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 13, 2006

LANSING, MICHIGAN--More than three years after Michael Renner-Lewis III died from being restrained face-down by staff at his new school, the Michigan Board of Education has finally adopted tough regulations governing how such methods are used on public school students.

The policy, which was unveiled December 12, prohibits the use of any kind of restraint that restricts breathing, including the prone restraint -- the kind that was used on the 15-year-old, who had autism.

Among other things, the policy also bans the use of mechanical and chemical (medication) restraints, and limits restraint times to 10 minutes -- except in extraordinary circumstances. It restricts the use of restraints and seclusion to emergency situations, saying they cannot be used for staff convenience, as a form of punishment or discipline, or to substitute for lack of staff or staff training.

For the first time, schools will be required to document each incident of seclusion or restraint, and report it to the state education department and to parents or guardians.

To prevent such incidents, schools will be required to incorporate "positive behavior supports" into a school-wide system of behavioral support. Training will also be required on restraint and seclusion techniques, along with training on de-escalation methods

Over the next four months, the Michigan Department of Education will study the feasibility of incorporating such training into teacher-certification requirements.

Renner-Lewis died on August 25, 2003 -- the first day of school at Parchment High -- after being restrained facedown by school staff.

While autopsy results listed his cause of death as "prolonged physical restraint in prone position associated with extreme mental and motor agitation", criminal charges were not filed because the county medical examiner ruled it an accident.

School officials said Michael had what appeared to be a seizure early in the day. He recovered from the seizure, but soon became agitated. Four staff members "tried to quiet" the 6-foot, 165-pound teen by restraining him on his stomach in a room behind the school auditorium. At some point he closed his eyes and stopped breathing. Attempts to revive him were not successful.

His mother, Elizabeth Johnson, has settled the $25 million lawsuit she had filed against Parchment School District.

"I'm still outraged. It cannot happen to another person's child," she said last week.

A separate lawsuit filed by the Autism Society of Michigan and the Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service is still pending

"A way to safely restrain students? Bereaved mom at odds with state." (Detroit Free Press)
"How to restrain unruly students; In wake of 2003 deaths, state poised to adopt rules" (Kalamazoo Gazette)
"Editorial: Set clear rules on student restraint" (Detroit Free Press)
"State board adopts restraint policy" (Kalamazoo Gazette)
Supporting Student Behavior: Standards For The Emergency Use Of Seclusion And Restraint (Michigan Board of Education)
"The Death of Michael Renner-Lewis III" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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