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NEW GUIDANCE FOR SCHOOL DISCIPLINE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

A student using cruches stands in line with their peers.

Vermont's Agency of Education (AOE) recently published a seven (7) page document informing schools of their options for restraining, secluding, or relocating a student while following coronavirus health and safety guidelines. Their guidance includes important warnings, but also shifts policy toward favoring seclusion over restraint if such last resort measures must be used.

Taking heed from a report about classroom disparities, the Agency of Education reminds schools that students with disabilities and students of color have historically been subjected to restraint and seclusion more often than their non-disabled or white peers. They encourage schools to create and carry out practices on the basis of positive interventions and steps to de-escalate behavior. They remind districts that restraint and seclusion are a last resort after all other steps have failed.

Only staff members who are certified may restrain or seclude a student. Because restraining someone is a physical act, and the virus spreads through close physical contact, the Agency of Education is advising schools to favor seclusion over restraint.

Students known to have physical or unsafe behaviors should have a return/transition plan before schools open their doors to teach full time, says AOE guidance. Alternatives to seclusion or restraint include preventing undesired behaviors, praising desired behaviors, supporting choice and decision making, and redirection.

However, a separate room in the school may be assigned as the "de-escalation room,” for use until a student is ready to return to their classroom, according to AOE guidance. Refusal to abide by public health guidelines like wearing a mask or similar shield, should trigger disciplinary intervention and schools may send a student home to learn remotely if they refuse to follow "pandemic protocol.”

For more information read the statement published by the Agency of Education.


Side note:

  • It's up to school districts to decide if they wish to teach fully remotely, fully in the classroom, or blend the two with some days remote and some in the classroom.
    All schools that opt to have students and staff in a classroom must follow the State's reopening guidelines.
  • Photo credit to Karen Pike on Vermont's Image Relay