Although federal legislation governing student restraint and seclusion remains elusive, the U.S. Department of Education is for the first time sharing information on using those methods intended to calm students and keep them from harming themselves or someone else.
The department’s office of special education programs has been working with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for about two years on a paper about those controversial methods, Alexa Posny, the assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, said in May.
While the document expected to be available this fall won’t be official guidance from the Education Department, Ms. Posny said the paper will describe the principles that school staff members should consider when using restraints and seclusion, which are typically used with students with disabilities.
In the fall, the Education Department also will share school- and district-level data about restraint and seclusion—information that hasn’t been available until now.
Since 2009, schools and districts have been required to report, through the Civil Rights Data Collection, information about the number of students physically restrained, mechanically restrained, and secluded.
The use of restraints and seclusion has been under scrutiny for several years. A 2009 Government Accountability Office report found incidents in which students were severely injured or even died as a result of being restrained or secluded.
Following that report, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to chief state school officers encouraging them to review their current policies and guidelines about restraint and seclusion techniques and, if appropriate, revise them to ensure students’ safety.
In April, a bill was introduced in U.S. House of Representatives that would, among other provisions, limit physical restraint and locked seclusion, allowing their use only in cases in which the student or someone else was in imminent danger of injury, and only when employed by trained staff members.
A version of this article appeared in the June 08, 2011 edition of Education Week as Restraint, Seclusion Data to Be Shared