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Special Education Subjects Reference--Seclusion and Physical Restraint

2011 Wis. Act 125 addressing the use of seclusion and physical restraint in public schools takes effect on September 1, 2012. The Act applies to both regular and special education students and prohibits the use seclusion or physical restraint except when certain conditions apply.

Seclusion and/or physical restraint may be used only when a student’s behavior presents a clear, present and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others, and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible. Certain maneuvers and techniques are prohibited, and mechanical or chemical restraints may not be used. Seclusion rooms may not have locks, and rooms must be free of any objects or fixtures that may injure the student. If it is reasonably anticipated that restraint or seclusion may be used with a student with disability, it must included in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the IEP must also include positive interventions, supports and other strategies based on a functional behavioral assessment.

Other requirements include parental notification and documentation and training on safe use of physical restraint, including ways to deescalate behavior.

In May 2012, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education released Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document. The document identifies 15 principles for States, local school districts, preschool, elementary, and secondary schools, parents, and other stakeholders to consider when developing and implementing policies and procedures related to physical restraint and seclusion.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) issued a joint memo on March 13, 2009 entitled Prohibited Practices in the Application of Emergency Safety Interventions with Children and Adolescents in Community Based Programs and Facilities. Prohibited practices include prone restraints as well as other techniques.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) supports the information contained in these Department of Health Services memos: 

Please review these memos if you have not already done so and be sure staff is familiar with its contents.