Public Policy and Legislation

NOTE:  The following information was received from other organizations and is shared here simply to promote awareness and discourse of issues,opportunities, and perspectives relevant to ARCA members. Posting of this information does not in itself imply ARCA’s support or endorsement of the content.

                                                                    Seclusion and Restraint in the School

Long standing and controversial conversations of seclusion and restraint in public schools have resurfaced in recent media, as well as at the district, county, state, and national levels. The contention about the use of seclusion and restraint in the schools often presents as concern for safety versus student Civil Rights. Concerns for safety include safety of the student, school personnel, and other students, such as when a child’s behavior is a safety threat to self or others. Alternately, student Civil Rights arguments look at the Civil Rights of children who may be secluded or restrained – including the recommendation that “any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child’s rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse” (U.S. Department of Education, 2012, p.12).

Included in the broader context of all students in public school are students with disabilities. Children with disabilities represent the overwhelming majority of students who are placed in seclusion or restraint. Butler (2015) reported while 12% of school children had disabilities and were served by the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Education Act (IDEIA), these students represented 75% of all students physically restrained at school, and 58% of all students who were either placed in seclusion or involuntarily confined during 2011-2012.

Research in Applied Behavior Analysis indicates that seclusion or time-out, in limited duration, is effective if the individual is seeking attention from another person in the environment. However, effectiveness decreases over prolonged periods of time and may increase unwanted behavior. Despite this, the implementation of seclusion and/or restraint may be written into Individualized Educational Programs for students with disabilities, as behavioral intervention.

Currently, there is no federal policy or legislation in place that uniformly prevents or regulates addresses issues surrounding seclusion and/or restraint in public schools. Furthermore, there are five states with no policy in place regarding the use of seclusion and restraint (Idaho, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, and South Dakota; Butler, 2015). While some states have attempted to address the concerns surrounding the use of seclusion and restraint in the schools through legislation (for example, Wisconsin’s 2012 Act 125 in Wisconsin), data has shown limited enforcement and compliance with such legislation.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education issued a resource document that identified 15 principles that they recommended be “the framework for the development and implementation of policies and procedures related to restraint and seclusion to help 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 a school” (p. 6). These principles start with “Every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and for the use of seclusion” (p. 12). For more information about the 15 principles, federal involvement, and other information about policies, regulations, statutes, and guidelines regarding seclusion and restraint, visit the U.S. Department of Education go to

Given the potential Civil Rights issues, future policy should look at federal requirements of all states to develop plans that aim to decrease the use of restraint and seclusion, and increase the use of alternative interventions to address behaviors that previously led to the use of restraint and seclusion. In addition, policy should look at including the requirement of public reporting of the use of restraint and seclusion, as well as public reporting on compliance with policy on restraint and seclusion. Plans may also include policies and procedures on issues surrounding the use of restraint and seclusion, such as requiring that parents be made aware of the use of seclusion and/or restraint in a specific time frame or the amount and types of use and restraint used.

Buttler, J. (2015). How safe is the schoolhouse? An analysis of state seclusion and restraint laws and policies.
U.S. Department of Education. (2012). Restraint and seclusion

By: Kristin Maxwell, M.S., CRC



According to Association for University Centers on Disability (AUCD), Disability Policy News Brief, dated August 31, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education published policy-eliminating use of Alternative Assessment on Modified Academic Achievement Standards (AA-MAS). This policy is thought by AUCD to better even the playing field for students with disability by making schools more accountable for providing necessary instruction needed to uphold grade-level standards for all students; thus, AUCD feels this rule change will better ensure access for students with disabilities to access college and careers following high school. This policy is important to keep track of to see the practical impact on improving educational outcomes K-12 as well as outcomes for transition-aged youth who are transitioning to work and/or adult life (including transition students who receive VR services).


The new budget request will focus on “strengthening America’s middle class, help hard –working families, and ensure every student has the opportunity to fulfill his or her greatest potential. The budget will also emphasize themes that are critical to a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The budget will provide an increase of $2.7 billion for ESEA programs, including $1 billion for Title I, to ensure tall students – including minority students, students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and English learners – graduate from high school prepared and prepared for college and careers.”

For more information, the U.S. Department of Education has released an official statement that can be found at: