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IDEA Complaint Decision 23-004

On January 12, 2023, 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 this complaint. The issue is whether the district, during an incident on December 9, 2022, improperly utilized seclusion and/or physical restraint with a student with a disability.

The complainant, who is the parent of the student who is the subject of this complaint, was concerned district staff may have inappropriately used physical restraint with the student during an incident on December 9, 2022. The complaint does not contain allegations of the use of 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.

The student who is the subject of this complaint has disability-related needs in areas of focus and attention. The student’s individualized education program (IEP) does not indicate the student’s behavior as impacting the student’s learning or that of others. The student’s IEP includes movement breaks, fidgets, and weekly specially designed instruction in social skills and behavioral development. District staff have not reported behavioral concerns regarding the student, and other than the incident giving rise to this complaint, there is no documentation of incidents regarding the student’s behavior.

On December 9, 2022, the student refused to leave the regular classroom when it was time for the class to leave the classroom for music class. The teacher called the office for assistance as they needed to accompany the rest of the students. Upon the arrival of the responding staff person, who had not worked with the student previously, the student used inappropriate language. The staff member spent some time talking with the student and attempted to call the complainant, who was unavailable. After some time, the student independently got up and walked out of the classroom. The staff member closed the door behind the student and physically blocked the classroom door so the student could not get back into the classroom. The student went to the office, spoke to the principal, and remained in the principal’s office until the complainant picked the student up. In the days following the incident, the student reported arm pain significant enough to cause them to wake from sleep. The complainant took the student to receive medical care, and the pediatrician noted bruising above the student’s elbow. The student’s parent was extremely concerned and did not return the student to school. The parent met with district-level administrative staff and requested that the student be transferred to another school in the district. In response to the complainant’s concerts, district staff arranged for the student to transfer to a different elementary school where the student currently attends.

The department’s investigator reviewed documentation and interviewed district staff involved in the December 9, 2022, incident. An incident report provided to the department and an interview by department staff confirmed that while the staff member blocked the classroom door after closing it, the staff member did not physically intervene with the student. There is no history of district staff utilizing restraint with the student before or since this incident occurred. As such, the department is not able to substantiate that improper physical restraint involving the student on December 9, 2022. 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. These issues may be addressed through other dispute resolutions, including mediation and due process hearings. For more information, visit the department’s website at or contact the special education team at (608) 266-1781.

For questions about this information, contact (608) 266-1781