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IDEA Complaint Decision 15-057

On October 16, 2015 (form dated October 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 2015-16 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. Seclusion or restraint may only be used as long as it is necessary to resolve the imminent safety risk. 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 (FBA). 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. No individual may use physical restraint on a pupil at school unless he or she has received the required training in the use of physical restraint, except when there is an unforeseen emergency and no trained staff members are available. 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 have a door capable of being locked, and must meet all applicable building code requirements.

On Friday, October 9, 2015, the student left the classroom and ran out of the school building. The student began to climb on a wall directly outside the school building, which has an approximate 12 foot drop on the other side of the wall. A staff member attempted to verbally redirect the student, but the student did not comply. The staff member picked up the student in a manner consistent with state law requirements and removed the student from the wall. The student was immediately placed standing at the front door of the school building. The duration of the incident was less than one minute. The district acknowledges that the staff member involved in the restraint was not properly trained. However, the staff member acted in accordance with the law. The student was in imminent danger of falling from the wall and no trained staff members were present. Consequently, the unforeseen emergency exception applied. Since the incident, the staff member has been trained in the use of restraint.

Following the restraint, the student walked back into the school, but then began to run towards the exit. Three staff members stood in front of the school doors and redirected the student into a large room with chairs, bookshelves, fidget toys, computers, art supplies, and games. The room is used by both regular and special education students. The student walked into the room and sat in a rocking chair while a staff member sat in another chair. The staff member and student talked and played with playdough while attempting to process the incident. During this, the student participated in several activities and was never prevented from leaving the room.

On October 12, the parent received the seclusion and restraint report. The report indicated the student was both restrained and secluded during the incident. Documentation provided by the district demonstrates that the student was in the room for 90 minutes. Although the student was in a room away from peers, the incident does not fall within the definition of seclusion because the student was not physically prevented from leaving. The IEP team met on October 12, 19, and November 2, to address the use of restraint and the student’s increased behaviors. The IEP team added restraint and seclusion to the IEP. In addition, the IEP team revised the Behavior Support Plan to include positive behavior supports such as, positive adult time, leadership opportunities, visual supports, sensory breaks, additional work folders, and fidget toys in all classroom environments. The plan was based on a FBA. The district did not utilize improper seclusion and restraint procedures.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 12/15/2015
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support