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IDEA Complaint Decision 08-019

On February 21, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district utilized improper restraint procedures on a student with a disability on February 19, 2008.

On February 19, the student became frustrated with his assignment, threw his papers on the floor and ran out of the classroom. The teacher assistant followed the student out of the classroom and walked behind him in the hallway. When they returned past the classroom door, the teacher assistant remained at the classroom and the special education teacher followed the student in the hall. The student ran out of the school building, and the teacher followed. Neither the student, nor the teacher, was wearing a coat or other outdoor garments. The teacher held him to prevent him from running away or going into the street. She talked to him until the student calmed down. The teacher placed her hand on the student's arm to escort the student into the building. The school psychologist was standing inside the school door and opened the door for the teacher and student to reenter the building. The student was not physically harmed. The student returned to his classroom.

The student had engaged in similar loss-of-control behavior prior to the February 19 incident. The student’s behavioral intervention plans (BIP) include the replacement behavior “Attending on task; removing himself to a quiet area of the room; listening to soothing tapes on headphones; moving to a quiet area just outside of the room (with supervision); talking out his frustrations; carrying & checking off his daily schedule.” The student’s individualized education program (IEP) did not include the use of physical restraint. During incidents before February 19, 2008, when the student lost self-control and did not regain control in the classroom, the student was supervised and talked to by school staff while walking in the hall or in the principal’s office. On other occasions, however, the student had been held to prevent him from leaving the school building. Holding a student in order to prevent his movement is physical restraint. It is unclear how often this technique was used because no log was kept.

The special education teacher involved in this incident had crisis prevention intervention training in 2006 and February 2008. A school-wide training was conducted in the 2004-05 school year. During the investigation of this complaint, staff was provided a link to the Department guidelines for the appropriate use of physical restraint in special education programs.

While the technique used on February 19 appears to have been necessary and appropriate, the district did not utilize proper procedures related to physical restraint. The use of restraint must be part of the student's IEP when it is anticipated that such use will be necessary to address the student's behavior. Including the use of restraint in the IEP provides an opportunity to discuss its use with the parent and staff as well as to answer any questions, define when and how restraint will be used and demonstrate the technique(s) to be used. Every attempt should be made to avoid the use of physical restraint, but safety concerns are paramount. A log or incident report should be kept when physical restraint is used.

The student has since moved to another school within the district. While the parent is satisfied with the student's current school, the district must in two weeks conduct an IEP team meeting to ensure the child's IEP specifically describes any behavior related techniques to be used. By May 30, 2008, the district must also provide the Department a copy of the student's revised IEP. In addition, staff at the student's previous school and current school must attend a staff training to review the Department's "Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Seclusion and Physical Restraint in Special Education Programs" and ensure staff understands the need to convene an IEP team meeting under circumstances like those in this complaint investigation. By May 30 the district must provide the Department documentation the staff training is completed.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 4/21/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy