Restraint and Isolation of Students

What are the limits on restraining or isolating a student currently?

As of the 2015-2016 school year, schools have to follow new laws around restraint and isolation. These changes, outlined in SHB 1240 include:

  • prohibit schools from physically restraining or isolating any student except when the student’s behavior poses an imminent likelihood of serious harm to that student or another person;
  • prohibit the planned use of restraint and isolation as interventions in the individual education plans for students with disabilities except where individual needs of students require more specific advance planning and the student’s parent or guardian agrees;
  • promote the use of positive interventions when a student with disabilities is determined to need specially designed instruction to address behavior;
  • clarify definitions of “restraint” and “isolation”;
  • require that any restraint or isolation of a student be closely monitored to prevent harm to the student and discontinued as soon as the likelihood of serious harm has dissipated;
  • require each district to adopt a policy providing for the least amount of restraint or isolation appropriate to protect the safety of students and staff under such circumstances;
  • add to the review procedures following each incident of restraint or isolation to include consideration of any additional training or supports staff may need to prevent similar incidents from occurring;
  • require that districts provide notice to parents of the use of isolation of restraint of any child (no longer limited to those who have an Individualized Education Plan or Section 504 plan);
  • implement data collection and reporting procedures that would allow districts and OSPI access to the data necessary to inform practice around the use of restraint and isolation in schools.

Parent of students with special needs in Washington have rights in regards to their student being restrained or isolated. As outlined in RCW 28A.600.485, during the 2014-2015 school year,

(3) Following the release of a student from the use of restraint or isolation, the school must implement follow-up procedures. These procedures must include reviewing the incident with the student and the parent or guardian to address the behavior that precipitated the restraint or isolation and reviewing the incident with the staff member who administered the restraint or isolation to discuss whether proper procedures were followed.

(4) Any school employee, resource officer, or school security officer who uses any chemical spray, mechanical restraint, or physical force on a student during school-sponsored instruction or activities must inform the building administrator or building administrator's designee as soon as possible, and within two business days submit a written report of the incident to the district office. The written report should include, at a minimum, the following information:

     (a) The date and time of the incident;

     (b) The name and job title of the individual who administered the restraint or isolation;

     (c) A description of the activity that led to the restraint or isolation;

     (d) The type of restraint or isolation used on the student, including the duration; and

     (e) Whether the student or staff was physically injured during the restraint or isolation and any medical care provided.

(5) The principal or principal's designee must make a reasonable effort to verbally inform the student's parent or guardian within twenty-four hours of the incident, and must send written notification as soon as practical but postmarked no later than five business days after the restraint or isolation occurred. If the school or school district customarily provides the parent or guardian with school-related information in a language other than English, the written report under this section must be provided to the parent or guardian in that language.