In response to simmering concerns over reported abuses, the U.S. Department of Education issued multiple guidelines Tuesday for how schools can avoid going overboard in restraining or isolating disruptive students.
"As education leaders, our first responsibility must be to make sure that schools foster learning in a safe environment for all of our children and teachers," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement accompanying the release of "Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document."
"I believe this document is an important step toward this goal. I also want to salute leaders in Congress for their vigilance on this issue," Duncan said.
Duncan said 15 principles described in the document "come down to common sense." He called on districts and schools to consider incorporating them into written policies that make standards clear to staff and parents.
The department's guidelines state that restraint or seclusion should never be used as punishment, and should never be used at all unless a child's behavior poses behavior poses "imminent danger" of serious physical harm to the child or others. The principles also warn that such policies should apply to all students, not just disabled children, and that parents and staff should be informed of policies. In addition, parents should be immediately told when a child has been subject to restraint or seclusion.
Congress has wrestled over whether to adopt national standards for secluding students in rooms alone, or restraining students, which can be defined as staff holding down children or restraining them with straps or other devices.