Seclusion & Restraints in School

Seclusion and Restraint:
Legal Claims under Federal
and State Law
Created for the TASC 2010 Conference
by Kristine Sullivan, Disability Rights NC
Claims under the IDEA
• Failure to provide FAPE
• Violation of LRE requirement
• Change of placement
In re: Student with a Disability
39 IDELR 200 (Vt. State Educ. Agency 2003)
Student with history of biting, scratching, pinching, throwing
IEP allowed use of physical restraint as last resort if student
was a danger.
LEA justified in including restraint in IEP. No violation of right
to FAPE.
Boerne Indep. Sch. Dist.
25 IDELR 102 (Tex. State Educ. Agency 1996)
Student’s IEP included the use of time-out room.
Evidence indicated that use of time-out was effective for
Parents failed to demonstrate that time-out room was unsafe.
No violation of right to FAPE.
Ferndale Public Schools
51 IDELR 233 (Mich. State Educ. Agency 2008)
Student allegedly removed his clothes and ran up and down
aisle while school bus was in motion.
LEA used harness to restrain student on bus.
Use of harness was reasonable because it was necessary to
ensure safety of student and others. No denial of FAPE.
Robert H. v. Nixa R-2 Sch. Dist.
26 IDELR 564 (W.D. Mo. 1997)
• Student placed in time-out room for misconduct during lunch.
• IEP Team, including parents, developed IEP that allowed use
of time-out room.
• LEA followed procedural requirements of IDEA, including
parent participation. No denial of FAPE.
CJN v. Minneapolis Pub. Schs.
323 F.3d 630 (8th Cir. Minn. 2003)
• Court refused to create rule prohibiting use of restraint
because it “may help prevent bad behavior from escalating to
a level where a suspension is required.”
• As long as student benefits from education, it is up to
educators to determine appropriate educational
methodology, including use of restraints.
• No denial of FAPE.
Waukee Community Sch. Dist. v. Isabel L.
51 IDELR 15 (S.D. Iowa 2008)
Student’s non-compliant behavior served escape function.
Offering student a break in response served to reinforce
inappropriate behavior.
Student’s aggressive behavior toward peers served attentionseeking function.
Use of hand-over-hand intervention in response served to
reinforce inappropriate behavior.
Interventions were not reasonably calculated to manage
student’s behavior and therefore denied FAPE.
West Baton Rouge Parish School System
53 IDELR 245 (La. State Educ. Agency 2009)
Student with history of pushing, climbing, kicking, running
away. Teacher restrained student to prevent him from
running out back door and held a hand over student’s mouth
to keep him from disturbing other classes.
SEA cited A.D. v. Kirby, 975 F.2d 193 (5th Cir. Tex. 1992),
which held that LRE prohibits LEA from using unnecessary
physical restraint.
Teacher’s use of restraint to keep student safe was
reasonable. Teacher’s use of restraint to keep student quiet
was unnecessary and for staff convenience. Therefore
restraint was unreasonable and violated right to education in
Melissa S. v. Sch. Dist.
183 Fed. Appx. 184 (3d Cir. Pa. 2006)
• Student kicked, screamed, struck other students, spit at
teacher, grabbed teacher’s breast, refused to go to class, ran
away from school once.
• Staff took student to “time-out area” to calm down.
• Use of time-out area not a change of placement and did not
violate IDEA.
Lessons Learned
• Use of s/r was
ineffective to end or
change behaviors
• LEA may be
permitted to choose
• Use of s/r was not
• LEA did not adhere
to procedural
calculated to provide
educational benefit
Claims under Section 504 and the ADA
• Disability-based discrimination
• Failure to provide FAPE
• All cases in this section are complaints filed in the Office for
Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
Portland (ME) Sch. Dist.
352 IDELR 492 (1987)
• Teacher tied student into a chair.
• Student’s IEP did not allow for restraint.
• Teacher described restraint as behavior modification.
• Use of restraint denied FAPE under Section 504.
Wells-Ogunquit (ME) Community
Sch. Dist. # 18
17 IDELR 495 (1990)
• Teacher restrained student in response to violent outburst.
• Student’s IEP allowed physical restraint to control violent
• Restraint was justified and not discriminatory.
Florence County (SC) No. 1 Sch. Dist.
352 IDELR 495 (1987)
• Student restrained to prevent him from harming self or
• Student’s IEP provided for “praise and positive reinforcement”
and prohibited corporal punishment.
• Use of restraint was not discriminatory.
Valley View (OH) Local Sch. Dist.
53 IDELR 335 (2009)
• Student restrained when in danger of hurting himself or
• Student’s IEP, which parent signed, allowed use of restraint as
last resort.
• Use of restraint was consistent with student’s IEP.
• LEA responded to parent concerns and made use of restraint
less public.
• Insufficient evidence to establish LEA subjected student to
hostile environment based on disability.
Oakland (CA) Unified Sch. Dist.
20 IDELR 1338 (1993)
• Teacher taped student’s mouth for excessive talking, took
photograph of student and showed to student’s classmates.
• Evaluations and assessments demonstrated that behavior was
related to student’s disability.
• Punishment for disability-related behavior was discrimination
in violation of Section 504 and the ADA.
Gateway (CA) Unified Sch. Dist.
24 IDELR 80 (1995)
• School officials restrained student.
• Restraint was used to prevent student from acting on
statements that he planned to harm himself.
• Student’s BIP allowed for restraint.
• No evidence of discrimination.
Ohio County (WV) Pub. Schs.
16 IDELR 619 (1989)
• Toileting goal was removed from student’s IEP.
• Student soiled himself excessively because of diarrhea and
demonstrated discomfort while having his diaper changed.
Teacher held student on toilet. Student had bruises from
• Teacher acted in response to emergency situation and did not
intend to disregard student’s IEP. No denial of FAPE.
• No evidence that teacher used excessive force. Use of
restraint was not discriminatory.
Aiken (SC) County Sch. Dist.
23 IDELR 113 (1995)
• Teacher taped student’s mouth for excessive talking.
• Inappropriate disciplinary sanctions resulted in denial of FAPE
under Section 504.
• LEA took appropriate steps to remedy violation by convening
meeting, requiring teacher to apologize and reassigning
student to another classroom. LEA therefore did not violate
Section 504 or the ADA.
Marion County (FL) Sch. Dist.
20 IDELR 634 (1993)
• Every elementary school in LEA that served students with
disabilities who had BIPs had time-out rooms.
• In absence of time-out rooms, many students would have
required placement in more restrictive settings.
• Amount of time students were placed in time-out rooms
complied with state and local policies and did not deny
appropriate education to students.
• No violation of Section 504 or the ADA.
Lessons Learned
• Demonstrate failure
to call IEP meeting
before using s/r
• Evidence that s/r
used as punishment
for disability-related
• Reason for the s/r
– Prevent harm
– Intent to disregard
• Use of SR consistent
with IEP
Claims under state law
• Tort claims
• State seclusion and restraint laws
Peters v. Rome City Sch. Dist.
298 A.D.2d 864 (N.Y. App. Div. 4th Dep’t 2002)
• Parent consented to student’s IEP, which included use of time-out
room for misbehavior.
• Parent alleged student was forced to lie flat on floor of room,
room lacked ventilation, smelled of “dirty feet and urine,” and
padding on floor was ripped and dirty.
• Student was confined for excessive periods of time and could not
leave room until he sat perfectly still for three minutes.
• Parent asserted claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Court upheld jury’s finding in parent’s favor.
Springfield Pub. Schs.
51 IDELR 263 (Mass. State Educ. Agency 2008)
• Parent believed student would try to leave school building
during day. Parent asked LEA to draft student’s BIP to include
use of physical restraint
• MA law allows use of restraint when student poses threat of
imminent, serious physical harm.
• MA law also allows use of restraint as permitted in student’s
IEP or BIP. Court read law to allow use of restraint as
necessary to provide FAPE.
• No evidence that student would attempt to leave school, and
no evidence that restraint was necessary to provide FAPE.
Baltimore County Pub. Schs.
108 LRP 38035 (Md. State Educ. Agency 2008)
• Maryland education code prohibits use of restraint unless (1)
student’s behavior is likely to result in imminent, serious physical
harm and less-restrictive interventions have failed or are
inappropriate; or (2) student’s IEP allows use of restraint in
specific situations.
• Student’s BIP allowed use of restraint to keep her safe when she
engaged in unsafe behaviors.
• LEA failed to document that its use of restraint was consistent
with BIP. LEA also failed to document that appropriate staff
received training on state regulations governing behavior
interventions. LEA violated state law.
Carroll County Pub. Schs.
109 LRP 16444 (Md. State Educ. Agency 2008)
• Student with history of aggression was restrained when he
endangered himself and others.
• LEA complied with state law by applying restraint only in
emergency situations or when permitted by student’s IEP.
• LEA violated state law by failing to document use of restraint
on each occasion; by failing to meet within 10 days of initial
use of restraint to develop BIP; and by failing to properly train
one staff member who restrained the student.
Beaverton Sch. Dist.
109 LRP 399 (Or. State Educ. Agency 2008)
• Student’s IEP allowed for use of separate room as “safe place”
if student became physically or verbally aggressive.
• State law requires staff to file detailed report for each incident
of seclusion and provide parent with copy of report. State law
also requires the IEP to specify how much seclusion will trigger
reassessment of BIP.
• LEA failed to complete incident reports and to identify when
seclusion would trigger review of BIP.
B.D. v. Puyallup Sch. Dist.
53 IDELR 120 (W.D. Wash. 2009)
• Student was sent to “quiet room” when he became overstimulated.
• Washington law defines aversive as systematic use of stimuli or
other treatment to discourage undesirable behavior. Definition
excludes actions to control behavior that poses clear and present
• Law permits use of aversive interventions only as last resort.
Interventions must be included in student’s IEP.
• LEA did not violate law because use of room did not constitute
aversive intervention. Student was not forced to go to room and
room was not used as discipline.
Cheyenne Mountain Sch. Dist. 12
52 IDELR 237 (Colo. State Educ. Agency 2009)
• Student’s educational program included use of unlocked “sensory”
room. His IEP did not describe use of restraints.
• State law required that IEP detail use of restraint if there was
possibility they would be used as part of crisis management.
• LEA did not restrict student’s movement through use of sensory
room, did not restrain student and did not place him in seclusion.
Therefore, there was no evidence that restraint had been or would
be used and LEA was not obligated to include use of restraint in
student’s IEP.
Bellflower Unified Sch. Dist.
54 IDELR 66 (Cal. State Educ. Agency 2010)
• Substitute teacher removed student from playground because
he was hitting his classmates
• Once inside classroom, teacher tied student to chair for five
• CA law prohibits use of restraint except in limited
circumstances to prevent imminent harm
• Once inside classroom, student no longer posed threat.
Therefore use of restraint violated state law.