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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Report on State Laws on Seclusion and Restraint

From Jim Gerl's Special Education Law Blog

By Jim Gerl, Esq.
February 8, 2018

We have written extensively on the abuse of seclusion and restraint and the effects of such abuses on children with disabilities:
  • Here is an article on the expose by the National Disability Rights Network on the issue, titled "School Is Not Supposed To Hurt."
  • Here is a post on the bill on this topic considered but not passed by Congress.

Students with disabilities are subjected to seclusion and restraint at a very high rate.

Last week, the Education Commission of the States issued a report on legislative activity by the states on this issue in the last couple of years. The Policy Snapshot on Restraint and Seclusion looks at the issue in terms of state level activity.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

The practice of seclusion generally refers to procedures that isolate a student from others, while restraint refers to the physical holding or mechanical restriction of a student’s movement. While these practices are typically utilized as tools for addressing imminent safety concerns, the use of restraint or seclusion on students who are exhibiting problematic behaviors has been prone to misapplication and abuse — possibly placing students in even more unsafe situations.

Additionally, students with disabilities are restrained or secluded at much higher rates than students without disabilities. According to the Office for Civil Rights, more than 100,000 students, including almost 69,000 students with disabilities, were placed in seclusion or physically restrained at school in 2013-14.

The disproportionate use of these practices on students with disabilities has garnered much attention from the federal government in recent years. A 2009 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found no federal laws restricting the use of restraint and seclusion in public and private schools, and widely divergent laws at the state level.

Since then, the U.S. Department of Education has released several guidance documents outlining the potential legal issues with these practices and providing states with alternative frameworks for approaching discipline and school safety.

At the state level, legislation to regulate restraint and seclusion generally seeks to:
  • Limit the use of these procedures, except in cases of immediate danger.
  • Mandate reporting when restraint and seclusion are used.
  • Ensure school personnel are properly trained.
  • Establish commissions to study the use of these practices.

You can read the entire report here.

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