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Opinion & Essays - Oct, 2000 Issue #74 

A Response to a Tragic Death 
Sue Crowell
, Sr. Vice-President
Outdoor Therapy Programs
Aspen Youth Services
(208) 886-2565 or (208) 731-0255 

On Monday, September 18, 2000, Obsidian Trails experienced the tragic death of a 15-year old, reportedly due to the restraint tactics employed by an Obsidian instructor. Aspen staff across the country were deeply saddened. According to published releases, the instructor was misidentified as a former employee of Aspen Youth Services (AYS), which operates three wilderness programs throughout the country. Our records show that this individual never served as an employee for any of our AYS programs.

Many individuals and programs, as well as representatives from the media, have inquired about the AYS philosophies regarding the use of physical restraints. AYS wilderness programs seek to encourage students through the use of respect, rather than the fear of retribution. It is our job as professionals in working with troubled students to keep each child safe. Therefore, we have intensive policies surrounding the use of physical restraints. AYS wilderness programs mandate all new employees that interact personally with students be trained in the use of either non- violent crisis intervention (NVCI), a nationally recognized training offered by Crisis Prevention Institute, or Positive Control Systems, recognized by the State of Utah as the training of choice for de-escalation issues. Our strategy is to de- escalate and redirect a studentís anger, rather than challenge and intimidate, and to control the situation without the use of physical restraint.

To further ensure student safety, our wilderness programs have an emergency response team. They work closely with local law enforcement to ensure that the safety and rights of the students (and staff) are protected.

AYS wilderness programs seek to honor each individual while maintaining a safe environment. This is accomplished through intensive, ongoing therapeutic training, and the aforementioned NVCI and Positive Control Systems training. Additionally, AYS continually seeks to offer our employees additional resources through external training efforts.

Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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