Restraint and Seclusion
In 2011, Senator Jack Donahue responded to advocates concerns regarding the need for regulations to govern the use of restraints and seclusion practices in schools by championing SB59 (Act 328). Act 328 created Louisiana Regulatory Statute 17:416.21.
In passing Act 328, Louisiana joined 28 other states with policies governing the use of restraint or seclusion in schools and provides Louisiana students with some of the same protections already afforded to people in hospitals, nursing homes, community and group homes, mental health facilities, even prisons. Passage of Act 328 was the result of advocacy efforts by the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council and LaTEACH, the Council supported grassroots advocacy organization for education. The Council and LaTEACH are grateful for the courageous parents who shared their stories with legislators to educate them on the need for change. As Governor Jindal said to the parent advocates after signing Act328, “It’s not the studies and statistics that convinces us to pass good legislation but knowing the impact of the one thing that matters most to a parent – their child.”
The Council joins thousands of parents across Louisiana in appreciation for Senator Donahue’s efforts to ensure children with disabilities in Louisiana are protected from unnecessary and inappropriate forms of restraint and seclusion.
Frequently Asked Questions about Restraint and Seclusion in Louisiana Schools
Act 328 of 2011
Q. When can restraint and seclusion be used?
A. Act 328 requires that restraint and seclusion only be used as a last resort. Students with disabilities should only be restrained when they present an imminent risk of harm to self or others.
Q. Can students be strapped down to Rifton chairs as a form of restraint?
A. No. Mechanical restraints are prohibited. Devices like Rifton Chairs should only be used for their intended purposes, not as restraint systems. If you see a Rifton Chair in your child’s class ask the teachers how they use it.
Q. Can restraint be used a punishment?
A. No. Restraint and seclusion shall not be used to get a student to comply, address non-dangerous self-stimulation, and academic refusal. These practices shall not be used as a form of discipline or punishment or for the convenience of school personnel.
Q. Should the practices of restraint and/or seclusion be written into my child’s IEP or BIP?
A. No. Restraint and seclusion are crisis or emergency procedures, not instructional practices or behavior management procedures. Therefore, they do not belong in the IEP since this would imply they have some instructional value or help the student reach their educational goals. It is not recommended that teachers attempt instruction when the student is in a state of crisis. It would be similar to including a fire escape plan in a teacher’s lesson plan. Evacuation procedures are not infused into the instructional plan, they are a disruption to the teacher’s lesson plan
Q. Can students be left alone unsupervised in a seclusion room?
A. No. Act 328 requires that students be monitored when restrained or placed in a seclusion room.
Q. Can a teacher sit on a student?
A. No. Act 328 prohibits restraint that causes physical injury nor interferes in any way with student breathing or ability to communicate. Placing excessive pressure on a student’s chest or back is not allowed.
Q. Will parents be informed when they child is restrained or secluded?
A. Yes. School systems must notify parents as soon as possible when their child is restrained or secluded and in writing within twenty-four hours of each incident.
Q. How will we know how prevalent these practices are used?
A. School systems must document and report every incident of restraint and seclusion to the Louisiana Department of Education. Advocates will request that these data be included in the Special Education Profiles published annually by the Department of Education.
Q. What if my child is improperly restrained or secluded in school?
A. The improper use of restraint and seclusion could be a violation of your child’s rights as a student with a disability. If you believe a student with disabilities was subjected to improper use of restraint and/or seclusion, please contact the Advocacy Center at 1-800-960-7705 or via email at [email protected]
Q. Can a law enforcement officer restrain or seclude my student with a disability?
A. Yes. Act 328 only governs the actions of a school employee. School employee is defined in Act 328 as “a teacher, paraprofessional, administrator, support staff member, or provider of related services.” Law enforcement officers, even when serving as School Resource Officers (SROs), can make arrests which may involve the lawful use of restraints.
Q. When do these rules take effect for my student with a disability?
A. The full implementation of Act 328 and the rules, regulations and guidelines approved by BESE will take effect for the 2012-2013 school year.
Federal Attempts to Regulate Restraint and Seclusion
In each of the past few years bills have been presented in Congress to establish federal regulations governing the use of restraint and seclusion in schools across the United States. Unfortunately, the efforts to develop protections for children across the country from unnecessary and/or inappropriate use of restraints and seclusion have been unsuccessful.