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IDEA Complaint Decision 22-071

On September 20, 2022 (form dated September 19, 2022), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from #### (complainant) against the #### (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, since September 20, 2021, improperly utilized seclusion or physical restraint with a student with a disability.

The complainant, a former employee of the school district, asserts that on one occasion since September 20, 2021, they witnessed the student who is the subject of the complaint being physically restrained improperly while the principal was leading the student to the school’s administrative offices. The complainant was not able to identify the specific date they observed the incident. The complainant has not alleged district staff utilized seclusion with the student.

State law prohibits the use of physical restraint with students at school unless a student's behavior presents a clear, present, and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others and is the least restrictive intervention feasible. Physical restraint means a restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to freely move their torso, arms, legs, or head. If physical restraint is used, the degree of force and the duration of the physical restraint may not exceed the degree and duration that are reasonable and necessary to resolve the clear, present, and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others. Physical restraint may only be used if there are no medical contraindications to its use. Wis. Stats. §§ 118.305(3).

The department’s investigator reviewed documentation and interviewed several district staff, including all staff members referenced in the complaint. All interviewed staff acknowledge that the student exhibits behaviors that interfere with the learning of the student or others, including, on occasion, verbal threats of self-harm or harm to others. Staff consistently asserted that they were able to de-escalate and redirect the student verbally. The staff reported they have never utilized physical restraint with the student, nor have they witnessed the student being physically restrained. Department staff reviewed documentation from the entire period of time relevant to the complaint, and neither the student’s records nor the district’s student information system indicate a history of the use of physical restraint with the student. As such, the department is not able to substantiate any incident of improper physical restraint involving the student since September 20, 2021. No noncompliance was identified as a result of this investigation.

This concludes our review of this complaint. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process. For more information, visit the department’s website at or contact the special education team at (608) 266-1781.