Thursday

Despite Risk of Harm, Schools Often Physically Restrain and Isolate Uncooperative Kids

Many schools subdue children with tactics banned at mental health centers. An analysis of U.S. data showed that the practices—which have included pinning uncooperative children face down on the floor, locking them in dark closets and tying them up with straps, handcuffs, bungee cords or even duct tape—were used more than 267,000 times nationwide in the 2012 school year. Three-quarters of the students restrained had physical, emotional or intellectual disabilities. Children have gotten head injuries, bloody noses and broken bones while being restrained or tied down. U.S. rules restrict those practices in nearly all institutions that receive federal money to help the young—including hospitals, nursing homes and psychiatric centers — but such limits don’t apply to public schools. ProPublica/NPR

Ebola outbreak in West Africa spreads, baffling experts. An outbreak that started in Guinea last February has surged in the past few weeks. It’s now the deadliest outbreak since the virus was first detected in 1976. More than 500 cases have been reported in three West African countries, and the death toll has risen to 337, the World Health Organization says. Experts aren’t sure of the reasons why Ebola has been so hard to stop in West Africa, but one probable factor is that the region isn’t as well-equipped to handle the illness as Central Africa, where the virus is more common. Health officials still don’t know how people are getting sick but, in the past, people caught Ebola from eating monkey meat or from bat bites. Then the virus spread from person to person through bodily fluids. NPR

Study finds that federal warnings about side effects of antidepressants for young people backfired. The warnings, issued in 2003 and 2004, advised that antidepressants could raise the risk of suicidal thoughts among children and adolescents. After that, the use of antidepressants dropped off — but suicide attempts over the six years following the warnings showed a small but significant increase among people ages 10 to 29, according to Harvard researchers. The authors of the study, published in the journal BMJ, say that patients and doctors, frightened by news coverage that exaggerated the risk of antidepressants, shunned treatment that might have prevented suicide attempts. “Doctors should consider not just the risk of the drug, but the risk of undertreatment,” the lead author said. The Boston Globe, The Washington Post

Federal Railroad Administration rejects industry argument for keeping details of oil shipments secret. U.S. officials, following a series of oil train explosions, have ordered railroads starting this month to give state authorities specifics on oil-train routes and volumes so emergency responders can better prepare for accidents. Some railroads have persuaded states to keep the information confidential, citing security risks, but the FRA has determined that the data at issue isn’t sensitive data that needs to be withheld for public safety. An FRA official said the railroads still could have appropriate claims that the information should be kept confidential for business reasons, but that states and railroads would have to work that out. U.S. crude oil shipments by rail have surged, spurred by booming production of shale oil from the Northern Plains and elsewhere. The Associated Press, Politico

U.S. audit cites EPA delays in assessing sites with possible lead contamination. The inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency faulted agency officials for lacking criteria and time limits to screen more than 460 potential lead smelter sites first brought to the agency’s attention by a scientific researcher in 2001. In the past two years — since the problem was highlighted in USA Today’s “Ghost Factories” series — the EPA has spent an estimated $9.2 million assessing the risks of lead contamination at the sites. The inspector general’s report says 50 sites have been identified that pose dangers to human health and the environment. At greatest risk are young children, who can suffer lost intelligence and other irreversible health effects from lead exposure. The inspector general said the EPA is now making progress, but that it took more than 12 years to complete preliminary assessments. USA Today

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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