On October 12, 2016, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the XXXXX School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2016-17 school year, improperly utilized physical restraint on a student with a disability.
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 behavioral 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. No individual may use physical restraint on a pupil at school unless he or she has received training in the use of physical restraint, except when there is an unforeseen emergency and no trained staff members are available.
On October 4, 2016, the student left his assigned classroom and entered the school’s hallways. Per school protocol, the aide responsible for the student summoned other staff members to assist in preventing the student from leaving the school building by blocking exits. After some time in the hallways, staff attempted to get the student to return to a classroom. The student engaged in behavior which created an immediate safety risk as staff were guiding him back to the classroom. In response, staff members applied a two person transport hold. On multiple occasions the student fell to the floor at which point the hold was released, and reapplied once the student was again standing. The hold used gave adequate attention and care to protecting the student’s head and did not 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 otherwise obstructed the student’s circulation or breathing. The student eventually was returned to a classroom where he was offered a variety of options for calming. The staff members applying the hold had received training in the use of physical restraint. The district concedes it did not notify the parent of the incident within one business day. A written report of the incident was prepared and made available to the parent, but not within the three business days.
The student’s IEP in effect at the time of the incident did not clearly specify that restraint may be used if there was an imminent safety risk. In failing to clearly specify the use of physical restraint in the student’s IEP, and in failing to notify the parent of the incident and make a written report available within the required timeframes, the district improperly used physical restraint on the student. No student corrective action will be required as the student is currently enrolled in another school district. To ensure future compliance with Wisconsin law regarding the use of physical restraint, the district is required to submit a corrective action plan to the department within 30 days. The corrective action plan should specify the steps the district will take to ensure district staff understand and adhere to the requirements for documenting the use of physical restraint in student IEPs and following the required timelines for providing notice and making written reports available.
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 12/6/2016
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support