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IDEA Complaint Decision 18-056

On June 22, 2018, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (parent) against the Racine Unified School District (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, on June 6, 2018, improperly utilized physical restraint or seclusion on a student with a disability.

Under Wisconsin law, “physical restraint” is defined as a restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to freely move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head. “Seclusion” means the involuntary confinement of a student, apart from other students, in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving. The use of restraint and 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 to others, and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible. Restraint or seclusion may be used only as long as is necessary to resolve the imminent risk to the physical safety of the student and others. If a student is secluded, school staff must maintain constant supervision of the student, either by remaining in the room or area with the student or by observing the student through a window that allows staff to see the student at all times. The room or area in which the student is secluded must be free of objects or fixtures that may injure the student. No door connecting the room or area in which the student is secluded to other rooms or areas can be capable of being locked. If it is reasonably anticipated that seclusion or restraint may be used with a student with a disability, the conditions of 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 (FBA). After any incident involving seclusion or restraint, the school principal must notify the student’s parent as soon as practicable but no later than one business day after the incident. A written report of the incident must be prepared within two business days of the incident. The report must be retained by the school and made available for review by the student’s parent within three business days of the incident. No individual may use physical restraint on a student at school unless he or she has received required training, except in an emergency when no staff trained in the use of restraint are immediately available. The school must maintain a record of the training received by staff members including the period during which the training is considered valid.

On June 6, 2018, the student engaged in behavior that created an imminent risk to the physical safety of the student and others. School staff restrained the student in the school cafeteria, hallway, and a conference room connected to a school administrator’s office. In addition, the student was secluded in the administrator’s office. The restraint incident was confirmed by the department during interviews with district staff and review of district documents. The two district staff members involved in the incident had received the required training on the use of restraint. The first staff member used an acceptable hold in the initial restraint to direct the student to walk from the cafeteria and in the hallway. When the student got to the conference room, the student laid down on the floor. The second staff member, a school administrator, slid the student into the administrator’s office and closed the door. This is not a permitted restraint technique under Wisconsin State law. Although the door to the office had a window, the office was not free of objects or fixtures that could injure the student. Although the door to the office was not locked during the ten to twelve minutes of seclusion, the door was capable of being locked with a key.

The school principal did not notify the student’s parent about the incident and a written report was not prepared. The district provided the department documentation of staff members’ training on the use of physical restraint, and the training was current. The April 12, 2018, IEP in effect for the student during the time of the incident includes positive behavior interventions based on an FBA. The IEP specifies the use of “nonviolent physical crisis intervention techniques (children’s support position).” The district did not properly utilize restraint and seclusion with the student.

The district must conduct an IEP team meeting for the student to review the student's IEP to ensure that it contains appropriate positive behavioral interventions and supports and other strategies to address the behavior of concern and revise the IEP if necessary. The district must prepare a written seclusion and restraint report about the June 6, 2018, incident, inform the parent of the availability of the report and include the incident in the annual seclusion and restraint report provided to the district Board of Education. The second staff member must also receive additional training as determined by the department. By September 21, 2018, a copy of the revised IEP and June 6, 2018, incident report must be submitted to the department.

Within thirty days of the date of this decision, the district must develop a corrective action plan to ensure:

  • District staff are trained on state law requirements regarding the use of seclusion and restraint;
  • When an IEP team determines the use of seclusion or physical restraint may reasonably be anticipated for a student, the use is clearly described in the student’s IEP;
  • The principal or designee, within one business day after a seclusion and/or restraint incident, develops a written report and notifies the student’s parent of the availability of the written report; and
  • Any rooms used for seclusion meet the requirements of the law.

In addition, the department will conduct ongoing monitoring of the use of seclusion and restraint at the school where this incident occurred. 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. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process.

//signed CST 8/21/2018
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support