Power is not evidence example: restraint in schools


Staff members in a school held down a young girl with Downs Syndrome and forcibly taped her shoes to her feet with large amounts of duct tape. 

That’s all we know, from the story.

The fact that strong adults decided to do this isn’t evidence of anything else. In particular it’s not evidence that:

  • She was especially disruptive, or:
  • She was doing something urgently dangerous, or:
  • The teachers were overwhelmed, or:
  • This was a last resort done only after gentle options were exhausted, or:
  • She is exceptionally difficult to care for, or:
  • She doesn’t belong in the class she is in, or:
  • Her disability made the problem hard to solve, or:
  • Anything remotely like that

But, a good percentage of the people reading and commenting on stories like this seem to be assuming that, if this happened, there’s a good reason it happened, and that the reason had something to do with the child and her disability. This is the assumption even of a good percentage of people who think the staff were wrong to do this to her.

It is hard not to make that assumption. It’s really ingrained.

But power is not evidence, it is not a reasonable assumption to make. And it is important to bear that in mind.