About Restraint & Seclusion

Students deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and those with challenging behavior, which can include children with disabilities, should be treated with the same respect and dignity that everyone is entitled to. Yet students across the U.S. remain at risk of being subjected to traumatic, dangerous and dehumanizing procedures, referred collectively as restraint and seclusion, as a means of managing challenging behavior in school.

We encourage you to visit the resources section of this website for a deeper understanding of restraint and seclusion, and the wealth of information available on this subject. On this page we’ll provide an overview of restraint and seclusion, and why these practices should be eliminated from use in our schools.

Defining Restraint and Seclusion

Restraint and seclusion are often unfamiliar terms unless you or a loved one have experienced or witnessed their use. In plain terms, they are techniques used to control or modify challenging behavior by force or isolation. Although we use the phrase “restraint and seclusion” to refer collectively to a set of abusive practices, the following offers more specific definitions and examples.

Physical Restraint is a personal restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move his or her torso, arms, legs or head freely.

What this includes: face down or prone restraint, immobilizing a student by pinning arms and legs onto the ground, restricting breathing through restraint, holding a student in one’s lap with arms immobilized, pinning a student against the wall.

What it doesn’t include: physical restraint does not include a physical escort, such as touching or holding the hand or arm for the purpose of guiding a student to a safe location.

Mechanical Restraint is the use of a devise or equipment to restrict a student’s freedom of movement.

What this includes: taping a students arms and legs to a chair, strapping the student into a Rifton chair and specially constructed tables or desks from which the student cannot leave.

What it doesn’t include: mechanical restraint does not include orthopedically prescribed devices or mechanical supports that assist in balance or movement and are used for their original therapeutic intent, nor does it include vehicle safety straps or medical immobilization.

Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving.

What this includes: placement in a dark isolated box, prolonged isolation without contact or bathroom breaks, locking a student in a closet or other tight space.

What it doesn’t include: seclusion is not a timeout, or an in-school suspension.

Why These Practices Should Be Stopped

Restraint and seclusion practices outside of an emergency context are widely recognized to be dangerous and dehumanizing for all involved. Numerous reports have shown that these practices can result in emotional and physical trauma, serious injury and even death.

There is no evidence of the therapeutic or educational value of restraint and seclusion. They are practices that are neither ethical nor beneficial, and often cause a spiraling effect in which additional unwanted behaviors may arise. Further, there is an existing and growing body of evidence in support of positive alternatives in addressing challenging behaviors.

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