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Restraint & Seclusion in Schools

February 9, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Brittany Whitley and Dr. Jill Barnas

There is no federal or Missouri law explicitly regulating the use of seclusion and/or restraint as a behavioral intervention in schools. The United States Department of Education recommends that seclusion and restraint are used rarely and only during crisis/emergency situations. The inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint is associated with negative health and behavioral outcomes and disproportionately impacts students with disabilities and students of color. HB 387 would prohibit all publicly funded schools from using restraint and seclusion for any purpose other than situations or conditions of imminent danger or physical harm. It also establishes reporting requirements for instances when seclusion or restraint is used.

Highlights

  • Inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint is associated with negative physical and mental health consequences, including serious injury and death in some cases.
  • Seclusion and restraint are disproportionately applied to students with disabilities served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and students of color.
  • Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), which include preventative behavioral support plans and appropriate de-escalation training for personnel, can address the behavioral events usually leading to seclusion and restraint.
  • Missouri does not have statutory restrictions on the use of seclusion and restraint in schools. The Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) currently provides nonbinding guidance that can be adopted and modified to create a policy per each individual school district.

Limitations

  • Instances of seclusion and restraint are likely underreported by schools/districts. The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) also notes that quality control within federal data sets is limited, which may also impact national statistics.
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