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Special Education Subjects Reference--Seclusion and Physical Restraint

2019 Wisconsin Act 118 - Pupil Restraint and Seclusion

2019 Wis. Act 118, which revises Wisconsin state law on addressing the use of seclusion and restraint in schools, went into effect on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Some of the changes include requiring parents to be provided with a copy of the written incident report, clarifying that the notice and reporting requirements apply to incidents involving law enforcement officers, prohibiting the use of prone restraint, revising the required training components, requiring school staff to hold a meeting after each incident of seclusion or restraint to discuss topics specified in the Act, conducting an IEP team meeting within ten school days of the second time seclusion or restraint is used on a student with a disability within the same school year, and requiring each governing body to submit an annual report to DPI by December 1. As a reminder, this law applies to both students with and without disabilities.

DPI has developed two documents highlighting these changes. One document provides a summary of the changes made through 2019 Wis. Act 118: Summary. The other provides a side-by-side comparison of the new requirements compared to the requirements under the previous law, 2011 Wis. Act 125: Comparison Chart.

2011 Wis. Act 125 addressing the use of seclusion and physical restraint in public schools took 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.

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.