Duncan calls on states to review policies on seclusion and restraint in schools
Legal Clips, August 2009
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has sent a letter to all chief state school officers encouraging each state to review their current policies and guidelines regarding the use of restraints and seclusion techniques in schools and if appropriate develop or revise them to ensure the safety of students. A link to the letter is included in the department’s press release, below, which states, “Duncan decided to issue the letter following the release of a GAO Report on May 19 that uncovered allegations of abuse and potentially deadly misapplication of seclusion and restraint techniques in schools, and a subsequent committee hearing conducted on the issue at the request of the committee’s chairman, U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA).” In the letter, the Secretary cites as an example of “one good approach” the rules adopted by the State of Illinois, which include “both a strong focus upon Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) as well as State regulations that limit the use of seclusion and restraint under most circumstances.” Background on the controversy over the use of seclusion and restraint in schools, including links to the GAO’s report, other reports, information on PBIS, and the North Carolina statute developed jointly by disability rights advocates and the North Carolina School Boards Association, is available starting from the third link.
The Secretary’s letter notes that “[s]everal other States have also adopted effective seclusion and/or restraint policies, but there are many jurisdictions that have not, leaving students and teachers vulnerable.” The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the letter adds, “provides significant one-time resources that districts can use to implement a school-wide system of PBIS.” States are urged have revised guidelines in place prior to the start of the 2009-2010 school year and “to publicize these policies and guidelines so that administrators, teachers, and parents understand and consent to the limited circumstances under which these techniques may be used; ensure that parents are notified when these interventions do occur; and provide the resources needed to successfully implement the policies and hold school districts accountable for adhering to the guidelines.” The letter indicates that federal officials will be contacting each chief state school officer by August 15 to discuss the status of the state’s efforts. Results of these discussions will be posted on the Department of Education’s website.
ED press release on letter
Illinois guidelines on restraint and seclusion
NSBA School Law pages on restraint and seclusion