The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has made information available regarding the use of seclusion and restraint in public school and public school-funded settings for the use of educators, policy makers, parents, and concerned citizens alike. Click here to see this content.
All of it is important for parents and educators of special education students. I’m going to summarize a few key points here because it is so important, but realize that the federal info linked to above is far more comprehensive and includes additional resources that educators and parents can use that I’m not duplicating here.
First, USDOE has identified 15 key principles that it believes schools and parents throughout the country should consider when it comes to seclusion and restraint. Those 15 key principles are as follows:
- Every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and for the use of seclusion.
- Schools should never use mechanical restraints to restrict a child?s freedom of movement, and schools should never use a drug or medication to control behavior or restrict freedom of movement (except as authorized by a licensed physician or other qualified health professional).
- Physical restraint or seclusion should not be used except in situations where the child?s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others and other interventions are ineffective and should be discontinued as soon as imminent danger?of serious physical harm to self or others has dissipated.
- Policies restricting the use of restraint and seclusion should apply to all children, not just children with disabilities.
- Any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child?s rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse.
- Restraint or seclusion should never be used as punishment or discipline (e.g., placing in seclusion for out-of-seat behavior), as a means of coercion or retaliation, or as a convenience.
- Restraint or seclusion should never be used in a manner that restricts a child?s breathing or harms the child.
- The use of restraint or seclusion, particularly when there is repeated use for an individual child, multiple uses within the same classroom, or multiple uses by the same individual, should trigger a review and, if appropriate, revision of strategies currently in place to address dangerous behavior; if positive behavioral strategies are not in place, staff should consider developing them.
- Behavioral strategies to address dangerous behavior that results in the use of restraint or seclusion should address the underlying cause or purpose of the dangerous behavior.
- Teachers and other personnel should be trained regularly on the appropriate use of effective alternatives to physical restraint and seclusion, such as positive behavioral interventions and supports and, only for cases involving imminent danger of serious physical harm, on the safe use of physical restraint and seclusion.
- Every instance in which restraint or seclusion is used should be carefully and continuously and visually monitored to ensure the appropriateness of its use and safety of the child, other children, teachers, and other personnel.
- Parents should be informed of the policies on restraint and seclusion at their child?s school or other educational setting, as well as applicable Federal, State, or local laws.
- Parents should be notified as soon as possible following each instance in which restraint or seclusion is used with their child.
- Policies regarding the use of restraint and seclusion should be reviewed regularly and updated as appropriate.
- Policies regarding the use of restraint and seclusion should provide that each incident involving the use of restraint or seclusion should be documented in writing and provide for the collection of specific data that would enable teachers, staff, and other personnel to understand and implement the preceding principles.