US ED resource on restraint and seclusion

The US Department of Education (ED) published Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document today. After the extensive discussions the last few years about abuses of management procedures (see , especially those used with children and youths with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, ED contracted with an agency to create this document that provides guidelines for the appropriate use of restraints and seclusion.

The foundation of any discussion about the use of restraint and seclusion is that every effort should be made to structure environments and provide supports so that restraint and seclusion are unnecessary. As many reports have documented, the use of restraint and seclusion can, in some cases, have very serious consequences, including, most tragically, death. There is no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective in reducing the occurrence of the problem behaviors that frequently precipitate the use of such techniques.


The document lists 15 recommendations about seclusion and restraint. Here is the list, but each is discussed in greater detail in the full document.

  1. Every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and for the use of seclusion.
  2. Schools should never use mechanical restraints to restrict a child’s freedom of movement, and schools should never use a drug or medication to control behavior or restrict freedom of movement (except as authorized by a licensed physician or other qualified health professional).
  3. Physical restraint or seclusion should not be used except in situations where the child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others and other interventions are ineffective and should be discontinued as soon as imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others has dissipated.
  4. Policies restricting the use of restraint and seclusion should apply to all children, not just children with disabilities.
  5. Any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child’s rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse.
  6. Restraint or seclusion should never be used as punishment or discipline (e.g., placing in seclusion for out-of-seat behavior), as a means of coercion or retaliation, or as a convenience.
  7. Restraint or seclusion should never be used in a manner that restricts a child’s breathing or harms the child.
  8. The use of restraint or seclusion, particularly when there is repeated use for an individual child, multiple uses within the same classroom, or multiple uses by the same individual, should trigger a review and, if appropriate, revision of strategies currently in place to address dangerous behavior; if positive behavioral strategies are not in place, staff should consider developing them.
  9. Behavioral strategies to address dangerous behavior that results in the use of restraint or seclusion should address the underlying cause or purpose of the dangerous behavior.
  10. Teachers and other personnel should be trained regularly on the appropriate use of effective alternatives to physical restraint and seclusion, such as positive behavioral interventions and supports and, only for cases involving imminent danger of serious physical harm, on the safe use of physical restraint and seclusion.
  11. Every instance in which restraint or seclusion is used should be carefully and continuously and visually monitored to ensure the appropriateness of its use and safety of the child, other children, teachers, and other personnel.
  12. Parents should be informed of the policies on restraint and seclusion at their child’s school or other educational setting, as well as applicable Federal, State, or local laws.
  13. Parents should be notified as soon as possible following each instance in which restraint or seclusion is used with their child.
  14. Policies regarding the use of restraint and seclusion should be reviewed regularly and updated as appropriate.
  15. Policies regarding the use of restraint and seclusion should provide that each incident involving the use of restraint or seclusion should be documented in writing and provide for the collection of specific data that would enable teachers, staff, and other personnel to understand and implement the preceding principles.

Download a copy of Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document from the ED site and read the department’s information page about Restraint and Seclusion policies. Get background about this topic by reading the position summaries of the Council for Children with Behavior Disorders and previous coverage of the topic in posts from EBDblog:

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