Restrict School Usage of Restraints and Abolish Seclusion

The Children’s Health Act of 2000 amended Title V of the Public Health Service Act protects children by regulating the use of restraints and seclusions in certain hospitals, community-based, and health care facilities.


In 2009, the United States Government Accountability Office published “SECLUSIONS AND RESTRAINTS: 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” They found there were no federal laws restricting the use of restraints and seclusion in public or private schools, and no federal organization tasked to monitor its usage. GAO also found that protection at the state level varied dramatically. At that time, only two states required annual reporting on the use of restraints. Those two states reported 33,095 instances of restraint usage the year before the GAO study. GAO found staff employing the practices were untrained. Death most frequently occurred from face down restraints or restraints that blocked the airway. When the usage resulted in injury or death to children as young as four years old, the teachers or other staff involved, continued to be employed in education and work with students. The incidences most frequently occurred to children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) program. Appendix I gives a Summary of State Laws Related to the Use of Restraints and Seclusions in Public and Private Schools for the states without hashmarks in the map, which provide some degree of protection. The green states also provide protection against corporal punishment.

In 2014, U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights found that students with disabilities (served by IDEA) represent 12% of the student population, but 58% of those placed in seclusion, and 75% of those physically or chemically restrained. If a child is disabled and Afro-American the likelihood of being restrained increases significantly.

Restraints cause fight or flight reaction, or fear within a person. The person feels threatened. Physically restraining or putting children in unsupervised seclusion causes significant physical and psychological danger. Many children have been physically or emotionally harmed. Some suffer from prolonged Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There is no evidence provides it provides any educational or therapeutic benefit to the children. When School staff learn to identify what a child’s behavior is communicating and what triggers exist before the escalation to aggressive behavior, the child feels understood, no longer aggressive, school become safer.

In 2014, Health, Education, Labor, And Pensions Committee of the United States Senate, published “Dangerous Use of Seclusion and Restraints in Schools Remains Widespread and Difficult to Remedy”, which urged the passage of federal laws abolishing seclusion and strongly regulating and restraints. Their recommendations include:

“Passing legislation that would limit the use of restraints to emergency situations only, when there is an imminent threat of serious harm to students themselves or to others, and would discontinue all use of unsupervised and unmonitored seclusion."
“Annual collecting of data that documents the frequency, duration and intensity of the use of seclusion and restraints in schools, reported at the local, state and federal levels with the ability to disaggregate the information at the school level."
“Training programs to ensure all teachers, administrators and other school personnel know how to implement preventative programming and positive interventions."
“Requiring notification of a child’s parents within 24 hours when seclusion or restraints are used against a child."
“Eliminating the use of seclusion and restraints, which have been shown to have no educational benefit, as an educational or therapeutic component of a student’s individualized education plan (IEP)."

We encourage you to write to your Senator requesting support for the passage of this law, and remove any use of seclusion and restraints from your child's IEP.