Abuse, Restraints and Seclusion in School
Updated May 2013! How Safe Is The Schoolhouse? An Analysis of State Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies (PDF) by Jessica Butler. This Report has been updated to include changes made in 2012 and early 2013 to state restraint and seclusion laws and policies and more fully discusses laws applicable to all children. Get a bullet point overview of the information and the status of all state seclusion and restraint policies.
Restraint and Seclusion Resource Document. (May 2012, US DOE) Describes 15 principles to consider when states, localities, and districts develop policies and procedures which should be in writing on the use of restraint and seclusion.
Congressman Miller rolls out Seclusion and Restraint webpage.
New Report! - Seclusions and Restraints (pdf) from the US Goverment Accountability Office (GAO-09-719T). Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers. Testimony Before the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives. 05/19/09 (Accessible text format)
New Complaint! - Complaint filed in Disability Rights of NC v. Wake Co Bd of Ed and Robert Sturey in abuse & restraints case (pdf) 09/16/08
When a child's "behavior" is seen merely as bad behavior and not as an effort to communicate, the child can become even more frustrated thus causing escalation. Adults who are not properly trained to distinguish these "behaviors" or to decipher the "communication" attempts can sometimes escalate the child to a critical point when the use of physical and/or mechanical restraint comes into play.
Imagine that you cannot express your thoughts in a way that others can easily understand. Now, imagine that you are a child who cannot communicate your fears, likes, dislikes, or pain. Imagine being misunderstood constantly. Imagine having others schedule every moment of your life without knowing what you would like to do. This is reality for some children. Is it any wonder that these children get frustrated?
It is essential that parents and school personnel realize that IDEA provides safeguards for these children. If a child's "behavior" gets in the way of his or her education (or that of others), certain steps must be taken in order to ensure FAPE.
"Something is Very Wrong When are Children are Unsafe at School," said
Physical restraints are becoming more prevalent in public schools. Deciding whether or not to physically restrain a student requires an understanding of legal requirements, professional standards, and health and safety issues.
Practicing Restraint - Restraint and seclusion were once considered acceptable, even valuable tools in maintaining control of unruly children in residential group homes. But the call for alternatives is growing louder.
Sample Letter: Letter Requesting "No Restraint"
Learning From Each Other: Success Stories and Ideas for Reducing Restraint/Seclusion in Behavioral Health" (PDF) - Resource Guide Provides Practical Help in Creating a Culture of Safety, Respect, and Dignity. The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and the Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health are coordinating a three-year project designed to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion procedures with children.
Handcuffs? Bruises? Disability Rights Files Suit Against Wake County Schools.The complaint alleged that children with autism were improperly restrained in class, including a child in handcuffs and a child returning home from school with bruises.
The Cost of Waiting from TASH (The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps). This Report chronicles the implications of inaction from Congress, as children across the country continue to be subjected to abusive practices that result in serious emotional trauma, physical pain and injury, and even death.
New! Summary of Seclusion and Restraint Statutes, Regulations, Policies and Guidance, by State and Territory. U.S. DOE posts restraint and seclusion policies in a Summary Report (February 2010).
Federal Standards For Use of Restraint And Seclusion by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health
Effective Responses: Physical Restraint (PDF) - Fact Sheet from Safe and Responsive Schools
Position Papers on Restraints
How Safe Is The Schoolhouse? An Analysis of State Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies. This new Report by Jessica Butler compares state approaches to seclusion and restraint, reviews state policies, and contains a summary of state restraint and seclusion laws effective in 2013.
Unsafe in the Schoolhouse: Abuse of Children with Disabilities by Jessica Butler. In March-May 2009, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) conducted a survey that identified 185 cases in which children were subjected to aversive interventions. Reports were received of children subject to prone restraints; injured by larger adults who restrained them; tied, taped and trapped in chairs and equipment; forced into locked seclusion rooms; made to endure pain, humiliation and deprived of basic necessities, and subjected to a variety of other abusive techniques.
School is Not Supposed to Hurt: US DOE Must Do More to Protect School Children from Restraint and Seclusion. This 2012 report is the third in a series of reports on restraint and seclusion by the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN). NDRN argues that ED should issue strong national guidance to state education agencies and local school districts about when the use of restraint and seclusion might violate anti-discrimination and education laws, similar to the guidance that the Office of Civil Rights has already issued on bullying and harassment.
School is Not Supposed to Hurt: Update on Progress in 2009 to Prevent and Reduce Restraint and Seclusion in Schools. This report is a follow-up released by The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) to its January 2009 report School is not Supposed to Hurt. The report, a shocking investigation chronicling the abusive use of seclusion and restraint on schoolchildren and a lack of state and federal regulation is updated with progress made in 2009.(February 2010)..
School is Not Supposed to Hurt. Investigative Report on Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools from the National Disability Rights Network. This report of their study on restraint and seclusion of school children, many with disabilities, chronicles a number of instances where children were injured or even killed by these techniques. (January 2009)
Out of Darkness...Into the Light: Seclusion and Restraint of Wisconsin Children. The report from Disability Rights Wisconsin exposes the tragedy of secluding and restraining Wisconsin children in schools and treatment settings throughout the state. It describes the ways in which Wisconsin children have been both emotionally and physically injured by such practices, including one child who died in restraints. It further describes actions taken by many other states to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint of children, and calls for legislative and administrative agency action to protect Wisconsin children from these dangerous practices. (April 2009) Executive Summary l Full Report
Improving the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Making Schools Work for All of America's Children (National Council on Disabilities, 1995) - The current system has the potential to allow parents to request and receive program methods that are unproven, experimental in nature, or dangerous or harmful to the physical or psychological health of their child. While it is possible to understand the desperation of these parents, to share their exasperation with ineffective programs and treatments, and to sympathize with them in their frustration to locate appropriate programs, there are limits to what society can permit in the name of treatment.
Prevention and Management of Aggressive Behavior in Psychiatric Institutions with Reference to Seclusion and Restraints published by the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry - "Seclusion and restraint are medical interventions, which are utilized during the psychiatric treatment of children and adolescents in hospital-based settings or other specialized clinical treatment programs."
Autism National Committee Position on Restraints - "Condemns the widespread and excessive use of mechanical and physical restraints in restricting the civil and human rights of people with disabilities ... the use of restraints is a failure in treatment."
National Mental Health Association Position Statement - "...as a matter of fundamental policy, Mental Health America urges abolition of the use of seclusion and restraints to control symptoms of mental illnesses, and prohibition of the use of sedatives and other medications as chemical restraints."
Position Paper on Seclusion and Restraints from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - "The use of involuntary mechanical or human restraints or involuntary seclusion is only justified as an emergency safety measure in response to imminent danger to a patient or others ... Restraint and seclusion have no therapeutic value and should be used only for emergency safety by order of a physician with competency in psychiatry or a licensed independent mental health professional (LIP)."
Physical Restraints in School (Powerpoint presentation)
Abuse in Schools
Alert: Abu Ghraib on the Hudson (html)
Using Federal Stimulus $$$ to Construct Seclusion Areas. A Wisconsin school district has decided to use federal stimulus dollars to construct “seclusion areas” in its schools. The decision is opposed by those working to end such practices for students with disabilities.
Teacher Fired, Isolation Room Closed, Lawsuit Pending.The following video (taken from a school surveillance tape) is a shocking report of videotaped abuse of a 14 year old boy who has autism (2009).
New York Schools Regs Allow Schools to Use "Aversive Interventions" on Children - Including Electric Shock - In June, the New York Board of Regents approved "emergency regulations" that permit public schools to use aversive behavioral interventions and time-out rooms as consequences for behavior of children with disabilities. These regulations went into effect on June 23, 2006. Among these "emergency regulations" is "the placement of a child unsupervised or unobserved in a room from which the student cannot exit without assistance."
Reducing the Use of Restraint and Seclusion: Promising Practices and Successful Strategies from the Child Welfare League - "Restraint and seclusion are dehumanizing, humiliating, and dangerous." This issue brief is a collection of promising practices and successful strategies for limiting the use of physical restraint and seclusion." ($6.95)
How Do YOU Define Restraint and Seclusion? In this interview from EdNews.org, Reece Peterson responds to questions about the use of "restraint" and provides resource materials for more information and clarification.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that a child's Individualized Education Planning (IEP) Team consider to the child's behavior if it interferes with his or her education or the education of others. IDEA is explicit in what it requires the IEP team to do when a child with a disability has behavior problems:
Free e-Book Download: Achieving Better Outcomes for Children and Families - The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and the Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health (FFCMH) serve as the Coordinating Center for the three-year Best Practices in Behavior Support and Intervention Project. The project is designed to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion by improving the training and supervision of staff who work directly with children and youth.
Positive Behavior Support is designed to resolve problem behavior of children with strategies that are based on empirical research.
Positive Behavioral Supports and School Psychology: What a Great IDEA! published by the National Association of School Psychologists
Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS) The key to reducing the use of aversives, restraints, and seclusion is to ensure that individuals who exhibit challenging behaviors have access to comprehensive and individualized positive behavior support.
Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Advocating for the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports in place of aversive measures such as restraint, seclusion and other abusive practices. Includes links to state specific information.
Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities v. Hartford Bd of Educ, Hartford Public Schools and Robert Henry, Sup. of Schools (2nd Cir 2006)
Disability Rights Wisconsin, Inc., v. v. Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction & Elizabeth Burmaster, Superintendent of Public Instruction (7th Cir. 2006)
The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) - nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the P&A/CAP network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.
National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy - NARPA is dedicated to promoting those policies and pursuing those strategies that represent the preferred options of people who have been labeled mentally disabled. NARPA is committed to advocating the abolishing of all forced treatment laws. NARPA believes the recipients of mental health services are capable of and entitled to make their own choices, and they are, above all, equal citizens under the law. NARPA's fundamental mission is to help empower people who have been labeled mentally disabled so that they may learn to independently exercise their rights.
Training: The Education Law Resource Center sponsors the Restraint Prevention Project. This project provides scholarships for educators to attend training programs about behavior management and physical restraints.
Positive Behavior Support:
Evolution of an Applied Science
Best Practice Guidelines for Behavior Support and Intervention Training available from the Child Welfare League. "The use of restraint and seclusion creates serious risks for children, including traumatization, emotional harm, serious injury, and even death. CWLA's Best Practice Guidelines for Behavior Support and Intervention Training will help facilities select qualified training vendors that will help reduce the use of restraint and seclusion." ($14.95)
Preventing Physical Restraints in Schools: A Guide for Parents, Educators & Professionals - Attorney Scott Johnson describes the legal requirements for using positive behavioral interventions and supports to prevent the need for restraints. Mr. Johnson describes the health and safety risks of using restraints and training requirements for school staff. He provides sample school policies and sample forms, and offers suggestions to parents who need to decide if restraints are appropriate for their child. ($29.95; includes the print publication and CD version of the book).
In The Name of Treatment: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Child From the Use of Restraint, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion (PDF) includes detailed information on restraint, aversive interventions, and seclusion. Also includes a "No Restraint Consent Form" that parents can give to their school to deny permission to use aversive procedures. Note: This publication includes images of children being restrained. Some may find these images disturbing.
Facilitator's Guide, Positive
e-Book Download: Achieving
Better Outcomes for Children and Families
Last revised: 11/05/13