Oct 6, 2015 5:37 PM

To prevent violence, Dover schools revise staff's 'physical restraint' policy against students


DOVER - The Dover school district is making changes to their policy on the use of physical restraint.

While state law governs restraint and physical action, a local 18-member task force recently updated the city's district policy to go "above and beyond" state guidelines, according to school board members.

There were only about 20 restraint cases in Dover schools last year according to board member Sarah Greenshields, who told NH1 News that the revision was intended to be proactive - and not due to an uptick in physical problems or violence in schools.

"If the student’s going to hurt other students, then definitely they should be restrained," said Emily Roberge, who attends Dover High School. "There has to be a really big circumstance for it, like if it’s really a big deal.”

Roberge said she has never seen another student get physically restrained by a teacher or staff member.

“I’ve seen people with the police officers before, but I’ve never seen anyone getting restrained in classes or anything like that," added peer Ashley Wiebold.

The revised policy is about 10 pages in length, in addition to a multi-page incident report that must be filled out by anyone who restrains a child within 24 hours.

"The Dover School District authorizes staff members to use physical restraints in limited situations and only as a last resort to prevent harm," the policy's introduction reads.

Only trained staff are supposed to use physical restraint; and can do so only after attempting to de-escalate the situation and when a student is creating a "substantial risk of harm to self or others."

Greenshields said about 60 district employees are currently trained on the restraint procedures.

“It depends on the severity of it I guess," said parent Tarry Woodman. "You know, like if there’s two kids fighting then yes, you’d want to step in and you’d want to stop it.”

According to the school board, out of the city's 5 schools and about 4,000 students – restraint is rarely used on more than a dozen students each year.

"I think it really needs to be closely monitored," said parent Jenn Borun. "Not just anybody should be able to do a restraint. People need to take courses.”

Staff must be trained in a 3-day de-escalation and physical management course called 'Non-Violent Crisis Intervention' by the Crisis Prevention Institute.

If a student is physically restrained, their parent/guardian must be informed and given a report within 4 days. State guidelines only require 7 days.

Dover's revised policy was passed in a vote of 6-1.

According to the Dover Police Dept., officers were called to the high school 7 times during the 2014-2015 school year for unruly students.

They responded 12 times to the middle and elementary schools.

Police officers, who are overseen by state and department policies as opposed to the school district's, restrained two students for being unruly inside Dover schools last year.


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