The state of Texas allows the use of restraint in a school if a student is considered a threat to themselves or others under the Texas Education Code.
The rules stipulate that restraint systems may only be used by trained employees and only in emergencies. Once the threat is averted, the restrictions should be removed.
However, according to a study by Disability Rights Texas, schools in Texas are still forcibly withholding students at high rates, which is apparently racist and skill-based.
Most alarmingly, students with disabilities experience 91 percent of all restrictions, even though they make up just under 10 percent of all students in Texas.
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In addition, the report found that black students were also being withheld at disproportionately high rates. Black students make up about 12 percent of the state’s student population, but experience 26 percent of all restrictions across the state and an even larger percentage in some districts.
Houston Public Media’s Laura Isensee says that disabilities in the classroom result from being diagnosed with autism or a disability related to an emotional disorder such as anxiety.
For black students, deeply ingrained stereotypes are likely to be the root of the large number of restraints applied to black students. According to the American Psychological Association, young black men are often viewed as more threatening when they are taller. The same goes for young black girls. A 2019 study by Georgetown Law on poverty and inequality found that black girls are viewed as less innocent than white girls.
What is daunting here is that while there are some cases where restrictions are required, the disproportionate use by both black students and people with disabilities appears to undermine the legitimacy of the entire practice. No group is in control of what is perceived by them, and these stereotypes are unwittingly placed on them.
Disability Rights Texas also found that certain school districts in the state of Texas, including the Houston Independent School District (HISD), report significantly low numbers for the use of restraint. Houston Public Media reported that HISD reported 38 cases of physical impairment to the TEA. The HISD has over 200 schools in its district with over 200,000 students.
It’s time we took an introspective look at our Texas school districts and how students are treated by school staff.