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Last Updated: 10/31/2017
 

Ask the Attorney with Calvin Luker   [Back to Ask the Attorney]

Question: The use of seclusion and restraint in school settings is a hot issue. If a school or school district does not have a formal policy, should school staff continue to use physical restraints methods if necessary and listed in the student's IEP or should this practice be stopped until a formal seclusion and restraint policy is written and training is provided to the staff?

 

Answer:  We agree, debate over when or whether to use seclusion or restraint in school settings has become a key safety and policy issue for parents and schools across the country. During the 2003-2004 school year in Michigan, two students [Michael Renner-Lewis and Calvin Kenyon Wade] were asphyxiated while being restrained at school. We have heard about similar deaths in schools in other states. We also have heard about restraint deaths occurring in other settings, like during police arrests, in residential or institutional settings, etc.

 

The ultimate question is what action or practice will help make schools safest for students and staff. Our personal opinion as parents is that as a matter of policy, planned seclusion and restraint never should be permitted or used as part of a behavior program or disciplinary policy. We never would agree to an IEP or behavior plan for our child that permitted or required the use of seclusion or restraint. We think school staff should be trained about how to engage in physical interventions in emergency situations where students or staff are in grave physical danger or peril, but schools and teachers should not be about the business of routinely restraining or secluding students in non-emergency or non-life threatening situations.

 

The legal issues surrounding restraint and seclusion in schools are highly complex and depend in part on what state law says and how it is interpreted. We suggest you contact your local Protection and Advocacy system for specific guidance in your situation.

 

[To find your local Protection & Advocacy Agency, visit http://www.nichcy.org/states.htm then choose your state. Your local agency should be under the "State Agencies & Organizations" section.]

 

The parent community needs to weigh in on this issue throughout the country. Restraint and seclusion are inherently dangerous activities, even when properly used. Why would any school district plan to put students or staff at risk by permitting the non-emergency use of such procedures. How many more deaths must occur before the practice is stopped?

 

Calvin Luker

 

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