You are here

IDEA Complaint Decision 15-049

On July 23, 2015, (letter dated July 15, 2015), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Madison Metropolitan School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2014-15 school year, utilized improper seclusion and restraint procedures.

Under Wisconsin law, the use of seclusion or restraint in public schools is prohibited unless a student’s behavior presents a clear, present, and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or to others, and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible. If it is reasonably anticipated that restraint or seclusion may be used with a student with a disability, its use must be clearly specified in the student’s individualized education program (IEP), and the IEP must include positive behavioral interventions, supports, and strategies based on a functional behavior assessment. If seclusion or restraint is used on a student at school, the principal or designee must, within one business day after the incident, notify the student’s parent of the use of restraint and/or seclusion and the availability of a written report. Within two business days of the incident, the principal or designee must prepare a written report describing the incident, and the report must be made available to the parents within three business days of the incident.

Restraint means a restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a pupil to freely move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head. The hold used must give adequate attention and care to protecting the student’s head and cannot cause chest compression or place pressure or weight on the student’s neck, throat, or an artery, or on the back of the student’s head or neck, or that otherwise obstructs the student’s circulation or breathing. Seclusion means the involuntary confinement of a pupil, apart from other pupils, in a room or area from which the pupil is physically prevented from leaving. A room used for seclusion must be free of objects or fixtures that may cause injury, must not contain a lock, and must meet all applicable building code requirements.

On November 5, 2014, school staff observed the student playing with cables for electrical equipment in the school library. After prompting from a school staff member, the student voluntarily walked to the school’s designated seclusion room, entered the room, and closed the door. The student used the room as an area for self-calming. The staff member who accompanied the student observed the student through a window in the seclusion room door. At this point, the student was free to leave the room and was not secluded.

When a second staff member arrived, the first staff member left the area in order to call the student’s father. After relieving the first staff member, the second staff member incorrectly assumed the student was in seclusion, and, therefore, held the door shut while observing the student. The student did not try to leave the room; however, the student, at this time, was physically prevented from leaving. The district improperly utilized seclusion because the seclusion was not in response to a clear, present, and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others.

While in the seclusion room, the student engaged in behavior which presented an imminent risk to the physical safety of the student. As a result, one of the staff members attempted to intervene. The student responded by engaging in behavior which presented an imminent risk to the physical safety of the staff member. Two staff members proceeded to restrain the student, and a third staff member arrived to assist them. Shortly thereafter, the student’s father arrived, the student calmed, and staff released the student. The staff members who restrained the student were properly trained in accordance with state law. The hold did not employ any of the prohibited maneuvers or techniques outlined under state law. The district did not improperly restrain the student because the student’s behavior presented an imminent risk to the physical safety of the student and staff members.

Following this incident, the district did not notify the student’s parent of the availability of a written report and never prepared a written report describing the incident. At the time of the incident, the school did not have proper seclusion and restraint reporting procedures. Additionally, the student’s IEPs developed before and after the incident did not clearly specify the use of seclusion or restraint.

The district acknowledges that it did not properly follow the notification and reporting procedures and has conducted two training sessions for school staff on these requirements. These training sessions were designed to familiarize staff with seclusion and restraint reporting requirements. The district also scheduled a similar training session for new staff at the start of the 2015-16 school year. Finally, the student’s school modified its seclusion and restraint reporting procedures to include notification requirements.

Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must submit to the department documentation demonstrating the content of the three training sessions as well as attendance lists. In addition, the district must provide a copy of the school’s revised policies and procedures surrounding seclusion and restraint reporting requirements. Finally, the district must conduct an IEP team meeting within 30 days to revise the student’s IEP to clearly specify the use of seclusion and restraint, and develop a written report for the November 5, 2014 use of seclusion and restraint, in accordance with state law requirements. The report must be provided to the parent and to the department.

All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, but in no case more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 9/21/2015
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support