What can I do if my child is being restrained or isolated repeatedly?

Restraint and isolation are emergency measures, not educational interventions. The risks of restraint and isolation include emotional trauma, physical injury and death.

If restraint or isolation become a frequent occurrence at school, the benefits of school can be lost: during a restraint or isolation incident, a student is not receiving any instruction or educational benefit.

Data on incidents of restraint and isolation show that students with disabilities have been subjected to restraint and isolation at rates that far exceeded those of other students. As the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has explained, the cumulative impact of repeated isolation or restraints can result in a denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education. (See https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201612-504-restraint-seclusion-ps.pdf at p.16-17).

If your child has been experiencing repeated incidents of isolation or restraint, and your child has an IEP or a Section 504 plan, the IEP team or Section 504 team will need to work together to try to prevent further incidents.  If initial attempts to reduce the use of restraint or isolation are not successful, schools will need to continue working with the student and family to try something else. The district may need to seek additional help from specialists familiar with the child, the child’s disabilities, and with experts on reducing the need for restraints and isolation.

For a child eligible for special education, a parent may want to consider asking for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) if the district’s own evaluation does not seem to provide enough information or insight to support the team in addressing the child’s behavior. (For more information on IEEs, see OEO’s Parent Guide for Supporting Students with Disabilities).

If a child without disabilities has been subjected to repeated incidents of restraint or isolation, a parent might ask the school principal, together with district staff responsible for overseeing school safety matters to meet to review the incidents and develop a plan to prevent future incidents.

This can be difficult, emotional work. If you are working through these issues and would like to see if we can help, please call 1-866-297-2597 or submit an online intake at https://watech.service-now.com/oeo.