Only on 10: Bill would limit restraint at RI facilities

A Rhode Island lawmaker is calling for an end to some of the techniques used to subdue students in state institutions.

Rep. Eilleen Naughton, D-Warwick, said Monday that besides the possibility of physical injury, restraints can also be mentally damaging.

"Besides the physical injuries, you're causing trauma that lasts long after the incident that restraints were used for," she said.

Annabelle Alexander claims her 13-year-old son had his arm broken by staff during a restraint at the Harmony Hill School on June 1. The boy was placed at the school after he repeatedly ran away from group homes.

However a spokesman for Harmony Hill said physical restraints are a necessary tool to protect students.

"Frankly, without it, it could potentially cause danger not just for the student who is manifesting behavior that requires some sort of remedial action but also all of those students who may be around he or she at that time," said Phil Loscoe, spokesman for Harmony Hill.

Loscoe said the training for restraints is thorough, and the Department of Education agrees they should only be used as a last resort and applied properly.

"It is only applied when you have a circumstance where the student in question is not responding to the verbal, non-physical de-escalation techniques that are really at the center of this handle with care model," Loscoe said.

Other students at the school have told NBC 10 that restraints are commonly used at Harmony Hill.

However, under a law being considered by the General Assembly, the occasions where restraints would be OK would be fewer.

Naughton and her supporters say there are better ways to control people.

"There are many scientifically evidenced alternatives to use rather than restraints that are far more effective and actually have the person be much more productive," she said.

The bill Naughton has sponsored doesn't appear to be making its way through the House, but an identical Senate bill might have a better chance.