Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document

Fifteen Principles

As education leaders, our first responsibility must be to ensure that schools foster learning in a safe and healthy environment for all our children, teachers, and staff.  To support schools in fulfilling that responsibility, the U.S. Department of Education has developed this document that describes 15 principles for States, school districts, schools, parents, and other stakeholders to consider when developing or revising policies and procedures on the use of restraint and seclusion.  These principles stress that every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and seclusion and that any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child’s rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse.  The principles make clear that restraint or seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others, and restraint and seclusion should be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff.  The goal in presenting these principles is to help ensure that all schools and learning environments are safe for all children and adults.

As many reports have documented, the use of restraint and seclusion can have very serious consequences, including, most tragically, death.  Furthermore, there continues to be no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective in reducing the occurrence of the problem behaviors that frequently precipitate the use of such techniques.  Schools must do everything possible to ensure all children can learn, develop, and participate in instructional programs that promote high levels of academic achievement.  To accomplish this, schools must make every effort to structure safe environments and provide a behavioral framework, such as the use of positive behavior interventions and supports, that applies to all children, all staff, and all places in the school so that restraint and seclusion techniques are unnecessary. 

I hope you find this document helpful in your efforts to provide a world-class education to America’s children.  Thank you for all you do to support our schools, families, and communities and for your work on behalf of our nation’s children.

Arne Duncan

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Last Modified: 05/15/2012