The Porter Chair Speaker Series welcomed filmmaker Dan Habib on Wednesday night to the Roosevelt Hall Auditorium.
The event included a screening of Habib’s latest documentary, “Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories,” followed by a discussion of the issue of restraint and seclusion with a panel comprised of Habib, associate professors Phil Smith and Steven Cameron and State Board of Education member Eileen Weiser.
Habib’s documentary followed the stories of five special needs students. These students shared their experiences with restraint and seclusion in their respective schools, which left them both physically and psychologically harmed.
As the father of a boy with special needs, the issue of equal treatment of special needs students’ hits home for Habib.
“I have seen my son struggle to communicate, and struggle so much that he gets angry and frustrated,” he said. “It is tragic that many schools respond to this behavior with restraint and seclusion.”
According to Weiser, restraint killed two children in Michigan in 2006. No legislation has been passed to stop this misuse of restraint techniques in Michigan schools.
Habib explained that the Keeping Kids Safe Act provides a possibility for laws that would abolish seclusion and limit restraint to only be used in emergency situations and by trained individuals on a national level.
“This is a human rights issue,” he said. “We need to address it and address it quickly.”
Junior and elementary education major Amanda Wright said she was shocked by some of the encounters the subjects of Habib’s documentary had with restraint and seclusion.
“I did not know this issue was so severe,” Wright said. “It upset me as a future educator.”
The panel members spoke about the importance of preventative measures that keep children from lashing out, and Habib explained some of these techniques.
“Positive Behavior Supports provide positive reinforcement for good behavior rather than punishment for bad behavior,” Habib said. “Functional Behavior Assessments look for the triggers that cause these students to escalate.”
Habib said that there is no research that supports “three strikes and you’re out” negative reinforcement.
EMU junior and secondary education major Brittany Cagle said she wants to become an advocate for the children affected by seclusion and overuse of restraints.
“I want to make a difference,” she said.
Habib said that students like Cagle can make a difference by visiting stophurtingkids.com and heading to the take action page. The page offers the opportunity to join the campaign to end restraint and seclusion abuse in schools, as well as an outlet to contact congress about the issue.