Restraint and Seclusion – Understanding the Basics

 width=In November, lawmakers introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act, which would protect students from the dangers of seclusion and restraint. If enacted, the law would establish strong federal standards to prohibit the use of seclusion and to limit restraint in federally funded schools, improve the safety of students and school staff, and ensure parents are informed when their child is physically restrained. In addition, the Keeping All Students Safe Act would require staff members to be certified before they used physical restraint.


A recent Education Week article reported that one out of every 100 students in special education was restrained or secluded from his or her peers, according to the federal Civil Rights Data Collection from the 2013-14 school year that's based on information reported by districts.


Restraint and Seclusion Basics

Restraint and seclusion are not just special education issues. In reality, general education teachers, paraeducators, counselors, administrators and others may need to know about restraint and seclusion. Restraint and seclusion should only be used by trained individuals with students who are so dangerously out of control that they are about to injure themselves or others. Both restraint and seclusion should be used only until the emergency has passed and the student is again able to control his or her behavior. Restraint and seclusion should not be used as a punishment for “bad” behavior or when a student is non-compliant.



Restraint is when a specially trained person controls the behavior of another, often by using holds or otherwise preventing free movement. Staff members must be specifically trained to use restraint only in emergency situations. Physical restraint can cause serious medical problems, including injury or death by starving the body and brain of oxygen. Lesser injuries - to both the student and the person doing the restraining - are possible: bruises, pulled muscles, and broken bones, for example. The process of physical restraint can also cause psychological trauma - to the student, the person trying to restrain the student, and other students who witness the event.



Seclusion is placing a person in a room or location alone and preventing that person from leaving. Seclusion is a last-resort option to be used when a student is at risk of injuring him or herself or others. If seclusion is used, strict standards must be followed to ensure the student's safety. Seclusion is NOT a punishment or a substitute for a timeout. A secluded student is removed from his or her peers; a student in a timeout is kept in the room with his or her peers.


Restraint and Seclusion Alternatives

Preventing a crisis that requires restraint or seclusion is preferable to reacting to such a crisis. All educators need training in de-escalation strategies and other ways to reduce the need for restraint and seclusion. De-escalation techniques are used to disengage and diminish conflict so that it doesn't lead to increasing anger or frustration. Staff members who might be expected to respond to a behavior crisis also need training in the appropriate emergency use of restraint and/or seclusion. It's important that you know - and carefully follow - your school district's policies regarding the use of restraint and seclusion.


Exceptional Child includes three courses designed to help ALL educators understand restraint and seclusion, as well as alternative intervention strategies.

 Exceptional Child also offers a wide range of other courses on Behavior Management. Click here to view the full course list.

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