05/28/2011 12:08 pm ET | Updated Nov 29, 2011

DOE To Set Guidelines On Student Restraint, Seclusion

The U.S. Department of Education said last week that it will administer guidelines by this fall regarding the use of restraint and seclusion when dealing with student behavior.

The measures are used in schools with the intention of protecting students from harming themselves and their peers. Alexa Posny, the DOE's special education official, explained to a federal autism advisory committee why the guidelines are necessary, Disability Scoop reports:

"There are no federal regulations that exist, so it makes it very hard for us at the Department of Education to go out and say you can and can't do this," Posny told the safety subcommittee of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. "We have no role in enforcement at this point."

Some states and schools already make their own rules. Last week, Palm Beach County School District in Florida said prone restraint techniques, in which a student is held face-down, can only be used as a last resort, the Palm Beach Post reports. Parents and activists who oppose the measure say prone restraint causes injury and mental trauma to to kids:

"The act of restraining a child face down on the floor is dehumanizing," said Karen Holme of Wellington.

Many in the district want the practice banned completely, but the board wouldn't go that far, according to the Post.

"I agree that obviously if we can eliminate the use of prone restraint that's the way we should go," board Chairman Frank Barbieri said. "How do you safely restrain a 150 pound student who outweighs the teacher by 50 pounds?"

Education Week reported last month that U.S. Representatives reintroduced a bill that would limit physical restraint and locked seclusion. It passed in the House but not the Senate.

Flickr photo by Will Fuller.