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IDEA Complaint Decision 17-074

On October 30, 2017 (form dated October 26, 2017), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2017-18 school year:

  • Improperly utilized physical restraint on a student with a disability; and
  • Properly implemented the behavior intervention plan (BIP) of a student with a disability.

When the behavior of a student with a disability impedes the student’s learning or that of others, the individualized education program (IEP) team must consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies to address that behavior. Any time the use of seclusion or physical restraint may be reasonably anticipated for a student, the student’s IEP must include clear statements that the use of restraint and/or seclusion may be used as an intervention. Physical restraint and/or seclusion may be used only when a student’s behavior presents an imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others, and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible.

The student was placed by the district at an alternative school at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. On August 10, 2017, the IEP team met to review and revise the student’s IEP and BIP before the new placement began. The BIP included various positive behavioral interventions, including offering the student breaks to swing or take a walk as needed, alternate areas to work, headphones, fidget items, small group instruction on coping strategies and regularly scheduled practice time, regular sensory breaks, use of a blanket and pillow, space and time to calm down, distracting conversation, and foreshadowing of schedule changes.

The revised BIP stated that when the student was engaging in dangerous or harmful behaviors that could result in hurting himself or someone else, restraint and seclusion could be used as a last resort. The BIP noted staff could utilize physical restraint techniques, but only when they were the least restrictive intervention possible and for the least amount of time necessary to ensure safety. The BIP also included information on how the staff would utilize verbal de‑escalation techniques. Staff would encourage and model the use of positive coping strategies to help with the overall emotional regulation and provide choices of break options, while taking overall safety into consideration and reminding the student of safety expectations.

School staff restrained the student ten times from September 11, 2017, to September 28, 2017. The district documented the use of restraint on “Incident Detail” reports that included all required information. In each of the instances, the student was engaging in behavior that created an imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others. For example, in several incidents the student pushed and hit staff. The staff implemented strategies from the student’s BIP in each incident prior to using restraint. For example, staff gave the student space or offered a break, explained safety concerns, gave verbal prompts to attempt to de-escalate the situation, and separated the student from peers when necessary. The restraints ranged in duration from five to 24 minutes. In each instance, staff released the student immediately after the imminent safety threat ended. Staff received extensive and regular training in the proper methods of physical restraint. Staff properly implemented the student’s BIP and properly utilized physical restraint on a student with a disability.

This concludes our review of this complaint. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process. 

//signed CST 12/29/2017
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support
CST: mm
For questions about this information, contact Margaret Resan (608) 267-9158