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IDEA Complaint Decision 15-065

On November 23, 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, improperly utilized seclusion with two students with disabilities at a district school.

Under Wisconsin law, “seclusion” is defined as “the involuntary confinement, apart from other students, in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving.” The use of seclusion 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 others, and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible. Seclusion must be used no longer than necessary to resolve the risk to the physical safety of the student or others.  The room or area in which the student is secluded must be free or objects or fixtures that could injure the student, the door must be incapable of being locked, and the staff member must be able to maintain constant supervision of the student.

Whenever a student’s individualized education program (IEP) team reasonably anticipates seclusion may be used with a student with a disability, the use must be clearly specified in the student’s IEP, and the IEP must include positive behavioral interventions, supports, and strategies based on a functional behavioral assessment (FBA). Each time seclusion is used on a student at school, the school must notify the student’s parent of the incident within one business day, and must prepare a written report of the incident that is available to the parent within three business days.

On January 11, 2016, the department’s investigator visited the school to inspect the seclusion room and interview staff members who work with the students. [Room X] has a door that is incapable of being locked. The room itself is empty and presents no visible safety hazards. Staff identify [Room X] as a “safety room.”  [Room Y] has a door equipped with a standard door lock, the room is empty, save for mats on the floor. Staff identify [Room Y] as the “calming room” and it is never used for seclusion.

Student A’s IEP team determined the seclusion of Student A could be reasonably anticipated. Student A’s most recent IEP, developed September 8, 2015, clearly specifies the use of seclusion and restraint, and includes positive behavioral interventions, supports and strategies based on a FBA. On October 1 and 5, 2015, Student A was removed from the classroom for engaging in disruptive behavior. Student A was offered various positive opportunities for calming, but responded with physically aggressive behavior that posed a threat to the safety of staff. Consequently staff decided to seclude the student in [Room X]. The seclusion ended when the student’s unsafe behavior subsided. In each instance the parent was notified of the incident and a written report was made available to the parent within the required timelines.. The district did not use improper seclusion procedures in regard to student A.

Student B’s IEP team did not determine that seclusion of Student B could be reasonably anticipated, and consequently, its use was not specified in the IEP. The student’s IEP developed on July 28, 2015, includes positive behavioral supports and interventions designed to address the student’s behavior. On October 9, 2015, the student became disruptive in the classroom, and a staff member brought the student to [Room Y]. The staff member sat with the student in the room until the student calmed down, but did not physically prevent the student from leaving the room. As the student was not physically prevented from leaving the room, the district did not use improper seclusion procedures in regard to Student B.

This concludes our review of this complaint, which we are closing. 

//signed CST 1/19/2015
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support


For questions about this information, contact Margaret Resan (608) 267-9158