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The Department of Education has identified 15 principles that we believe states, local school districts, preschool, elementary, and secondary schools, parents, and other stakeholders should consider as the framework for when states, localities, and districts develop and implement policies and procedures which should be in writing related to restraint and seclusion to ensure that any use of restraint or seclusion in schools does not occur except when there is a threat of imminent danger of serious physical harm to the student or others, and occurs in a manner that protects the safety of all children and adults at school.
The purpose of this resource document is to present and describe 15 principles for state, district, and school staff; parents; and other stakeholders to consider when states, localities, and districts develop policies and procedures which should be in writing on the use of restraint and seclusion. This resource document discusses the context within which these principles were developed, lists the principles, and highlights the current state of practice and implementation considerations for each principle.
Additionally, this document provides a synopsis of ongoing efforts by federal agencies to address national concerns about using restraint and seclusion in schools. Two attachments at the end of this document provide information about state policies on the use of restraint and seclusion in our nation’s public schools and an annotated resource guide on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.
GAO Report on Restraint and Seclusion: Seclusions And Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers
On May 19, 2009, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified before the Education and Labor Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding allegations of death and abuse at residential programs for troubled teens. Recent reports indicate that vulnerable children are being abused in other settings. For example, one report on the use of restraints and seclusions in schools documented cases where students were pinned to the floor for hours at a time, handcuffed, locked in closets, and subjected to other acts of violence. In some of these cases, this type of abuse resulted in death.
In some of these cases, this type of abuse resulted in death. Given these reports, the committee asked GAO to:
- provide an overview of seclusions and restraint laws applicable to children in public and private schools,
- verify whether allegations of student death and abuse from the use of these methods are widespread, and
- examine the facts and circumstances surrounding cases where a student died or suffered abuse as a result of being secluded or restrained.
GAO reviewed federal and state laws and abuse allegations from advocacy groups, parents, and the media from the past two decades. GAO did not evaluate whether using restraints and seclusions can be beneficial. GAO examined documents related to closed cases, including police and autopsy reports and school policies. GAO also interviewed parents, attorneys, and school officials and conducted searches to determine the current employment status of staff involved in the cases.
Seclusions And Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers.
Highlights (PDF, 74KB) | Full Report (PDF, 485KB) | Accessible Text
On July 31, 2009, Secretary Duncan sent a letter to Chief State School Officers encouraging each state to review their current policies and guidelines regarding the use of restraint and seclusion techniques in schools and if appropriate develop or revise them to ensure the safety of students.
- The letter can be found at: www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/090731.html.
Please learn more about states’ policies, regulations and guidelines regarding the use of restraint and seclusion in light of the May 2009 Government Accountability Office’s Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers report.
- State Policies, Regulations and Guidelines