AUGUSTA — A small number of students with special needs accounted for most of the instances of restraint of students in Augusta Public Schools last year.

School districts were required to collect and report data on the use of restraint and seclusion of students for the first time in 2012-13. The Department of Education published the data on its website this week.

The Augusta Public Schools staff restrained students 52 times last year and did not seclude any.

Restraint is a restriction of a student’s freedom of movement and includes physically moving a student, while seclusion is the confinement of a student in a room alone.

Assistant Superintendent Donna Madore, who was the district’s special education director until last year, said 14 students were restrained. That means the affected students were restrained nearly four times, on average.

Madore said the district does not use seclusion for students because staff members don’t consider it effective. A student occasionally might be isolated from other students, but there is always at least one adult in the room.

The data also show that there were four “serious bodily injuries” to staff members in Augusta last year, but Madore said the district reported all staff injuries, and only one of those was serious. In that case, a student head-butted a teacher, who suffered a concussion.

Madore said the other injuries were bruised legs from being kicked by students.

There were two instances of restraint at Cony High School, 23 at Gilbert Elementary and 27 at Lincoln Elementary. None occurred at Farrington Elementary or Hussey Elementary.

Gilbert houses two districtwide programs for students with emotional challenges, and there are two districtwide programs at Lincoln for students with autism. Madore said most uses of restraint were related to those programs.

Parents and disability advocates pushed for limits and reporting requirements on the use of physical restraint and seclusion, leading to passage of a law in 2012.

Madore said the law caused Augusta school staff to look more systematically at the intervention they were using with students. They had never tracked them before.

“It made us pay attention to what we were doing and how often and with how many students,” Madore said. “We were able to disaggregate and look at what do we have to do differently. Is this having a positive impact on student behavior?”

Augusta reported more uses of restraint than most area school districts, which is probably related to the larger size and special-needs population of the Augusta school district.

Regional School Unit 12 — Alna, Chelsea, Palermo, Somerville, Westport Island, Whitefield, Windsor and Wiscasset — reported that 19 students were restrained 61 times last year.

Some school districts have yet to report their data from last year. They include Winthrop Public Schools, RSU 18 and Alternative Organizational Structure 92.

RSU 18 consists of Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney; AOS 92, of Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645
smcmillan@mainetoday.com