US Dept of Education Will Issue Guidelines About Restraints & Seclusion in Schools

On Thursday, Alexa Posny, the US Department of Education’s top special education official, said that by next fall, her office will issue guidelines to school districts about the use of restraints, seclusion and other aversive procedures in US public schools. Currently, regulation of the use of such procedures has been left to local and state supervision, with troubling and sometimes tragic results.

In 2002, 14-year-old Cedric Price of Killeen, Texas, suffocated while his middle school teacher put him in a “therapeutic floor hold” to “keep him from struggling during a disagreement over lunch.”

In 2001, Paige Gaydos, who is autistic, was put into a face-down prone restraint by a teacher in Cupertino, California. Her parents sued the Cupertino School District and were awarded $700,000 by a federal jury; they settled for $260,000 to avoid an appeal.

Meanwhile, a bill to protect school children from abusive restraint, seclusion and aversive interventions in public schools remains stalled in Congress. The bill was passed on March 3, 2010 by the U.S. House of Representatives but did not come up for consideration in the Senate. In April some congressmen again introduced the bill, HR 1381, in the House, but it has yet to be considered. (Please see the petition below to urge your representatives to support this important piece of legislation.)

EdWeek notes that some states “govern” the use of restraints and seclusion and some do not, citing the example of Florida’s Palm Beach County school district which voted on Wednesday “to make prone restraint — where a student is held face down with their arms and legs immobilized — allowed only as a last resort.”

Posny of the Department of Education addressed the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) and I’m very heartened to know that the issue of restraints and seclusion is being discussed in regard to autistic children. My own son Charlie was placed numerous times in a type of restraint called a basket hold when he was 7-8 years in a public school in New Jersey. My husband and I had not given consent about the use of such procedures; we had not discussed their use in advance with the school staff and there was no mention of such restraints in Charlie’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a document that spells out teaching and other procedures. Many children who receive special education services, my son included, have a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP), but basket holds were not part of Charlie’s.

In another New Jersey school district — which has a highly regarded and extensive autism program — the use of restraints was included in Charlie’s IEP and BIP as part of “crisis management.” However, the school district routinely failed to inform us immediately that restraints had been used. In one instance, we were not informed that “four person floor control” had been used on our son until two weeks later and via an “incident report” that we received in the mail.

The Cost of Waiting, a report on the use of restraint, seclusion and aversive procedures by disability advocacy organization TASH, details a number of cases — reported since last year’s bill — in which children have been injured while school staff used such procedures. The federal Government Accountability Office also has a report detailed report, Seclusion and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers.

National regulations about the use of restraints, seclusion and aversive procedures in public schools should not only address the dangers of these but provide, as Posny says in Disability Scoop, “clear policies surrounding the dignified and appropriate use of restraint and seclusion in truly dangerous situations.” Schools should use positive behavior supports and other pro-active techniques. Further, parents should know that they have legal rights about the use of restraints, seclusion and aversive procedures on their children and that the use of these can and must be detailed in an IEP and a BIP and only as a “last resort” in “crisis management” situations. Further, parents must be informed immediately after such practices are used.

My son Charlie has little language and has never been able to say when aversive procedures were used on him — which is not to say that he, and other students with disabilities, have been upset and scared because such practices were used on them in public schools.

Take Action: Please sign the petition to urge your representatives to support the bill to keep our children safe in school.


Photo by roarofthefour.


Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago


Carole Lambert
Carole L6 years ago

This is all very depressing. There are numerous wonderful hard working teachers out there. It is easy to criticize teachers and demand perfection from them, but let us not forget that they are human. If we want great teachers in our schools, we need to support them, provide them with the resources and training they need to do a great job. Maybe, we should stop cutting school funding, maybe we should start showing respect toward teachers and the work they do, maybe we should work together to find a solution and fix our school system.

Amber C.
Amber C.6 years ago

With teachers like Maureen and her wonderful spelling, it's really no surprise that these teachers feel the need to get physical with our children the minute they step out of line. The low pay and fact that any idiot can teach (Maureen just proved that) leaves our children thrown to the wolves pretty much.

Maureen W.
Maureen W6 years ago

I kid you not, nothing happens to this kid!! I mean NOTHING!!!

Maureen W.
Maureen W6 years ago

I just want to know what the public and the government want us Sped teachers to do?!?! I have worked with high school and elementary school kids. In Texas it is illegal to restrain students or seclude them. Unless, they have a weapon or are threating bodily harm to themselves or others, if not we have no recourse. I have been cussed at, hit, kicked, had books thrown at me, had things stolen from my desk right in front of me and been threatened. Each time these things have happened almost no discipline was handed down to the child. The boy who stole things from my desk never got into any trouble, because his mother didn't like me (despite the fact that we had never met). So, the school backed her whenever I had issue with this kid. I was a teacher in a behavioral classroom and I was told by the district that I could not give him any consequences for his behavior and that I was not to interact with him. This kid was in my classroom all day everyday. Needless to say my classroom management was less than stellar. So someone PLEASE tell me!! What are we supposed to do? I am not advocating restraint because that can hurt us as well, but we must have some support!! And parents must be held accountable!!!!
I work now in a DAEP program and we have a kid now that we can't touch! Literally and figuratively he is allowed to do anything he wants until the district ascertains if he qualifies for Sped. He has threatened me and my animals more than once. He does whatever he wants, and I ki

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

Something is wrong if a special ed child gets killed. But you can't take a chance on the special ed child killing or maiming a classmate or staff person either. Safe and effective restraint must be possible, and ought to be part of the training special ed teachers get before they start teaching special ed students.

Susan Lea
Susan Lea6 years ago

I have seen abusive teachers/aids for handicapped children display the most horrific abuse with impunity. Mum's the word on all this abuse, including in special needs schools located in Marin County, California. Any teacher/aid who sits on a kid, holds them to the floor facing the floor or otherwise engages in physical restraint that kills the child is just a murderer who should spend the rest of their life in prison. Killing a child in that way is not an accident. If these people knew they would be held accountable for their abuse, they would stop it.

Paula Hurley
.6 years ago

noted with thanks

Randi L.
Randi Levin6 years ago

This is what happens when you delete the old rules and privilege of having SPECIAL EDUCATION and SPED TEACHERS available in our regular education system. Resource rooms are great but far from enough.

Autistic kids should be in regular ed classes no matter how much their parents think they should these children have a behavioral, learning and possibly an emotional disability as well. SPED TEACHERS WERE ONCE TRAINED IN RESTRAINING and DE-ESQULATION TECHNIQUES, today SPED CLASSES are minimal and used as a side class for those challenged instead primary placement in SPED with the objection for the child to be mainstreamed into regular ed classes once skills improve and behavioral tendencies are under self-control.
Now most schools only have resource rooms unless the school is designated as SPED SCHOOL.

Thus rather than mandate new laws, why not bring back the Special Ed System whereby ALL children between ages 3 and 21 are entitled to a free education IN THE LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT.

In fact before restraining a child, they were given the opp to chill out in a semi-secluded corner of the room, semi baricaded by cardboard barriers so that they cannot do harm upon themselves or others while still be watched/checked by supervisors.

BTW: autistic kids have no place in the average classroom as THEIR needs are not being met and they take away from the other students-----no matter how much their parents may think and demand otherwise.