Restraint and Seclusion in Schools: Top 5 Recommendations for School-Based Professionals
By Brian M. Yankouski, Ed.S., BCBA
Restraint and seclusion use in schools has been an ongoing issue over the past few years and has been at the forefront of media attention with reports of students either being seriously injured or killed at the hands of school-based professionals. The United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (2014) found that students with disabilities are most likely to be restrained or secluded in school and that black students with disabilities are subjected to mechanical restraints in schools more than any other students. Many school-based professionals working with students with disabilities typically do not receive formalized training for working with severe problem behavior or how to handle crisis situations as part of their undergraduate or graduate training. Here are some tips for school professionals that are faced with using restraint and seclusion with their students:
- Consult a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Understanding a student’s behaviors and being able to have interventions in place that are based upon evidence-based practices is key in order to prevent the need for using restrictive procedures like restraint and seclusion. By working with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst a Functional Behavioral Assessment can be performed to understand why a problem behavior is occurring and to then develop a Behavior Intervention Plan that can help reduce maladaptive behaviors while teaching socially acceptable replacement behaviors.
- Get trained! It is important for school professionals to receive professional development training in various areas in order to develop a school culture and climate that may reduce the need for restraint and seclusion practices. These areas can include behavior and classroom management, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), crisis intervention training, and even just basic understanding of different disabilities and how it can impact a student’s learning and behavior within the classroom.
- Collect data. Data is your friend when working in schools. Be sure to collect data on student behaviors, but in addition on the use of restraint and seclusion, such as the frequency of types of restraints being used or how often a student needs to be restrained, how long restraints are being performed, the length of stay in a seclusion room, etc. This data should then be graphed on each student, every classroom, and each school building to identify trends in the data at the student, classroom, and school-wide levels. From there use the data to inform practice with interventions at each level and even to analyze potential over use of these restrictive practices within certain classes or schools. This can indicate where more professional development training may be needed or it could inform administration about the population of students in those classes or schools and can aid in placement decisions each school year.
- Document, document, document. It is imperative that school professionals document every time that restraint and seclusion practices are used through an incident report. This information can be used in the even a parent or legal guardian questions what happened during an incident. Furthermore, if possible, have video recordings of the incident on file for documentation purposes. These videos can also be used for internal training purposes.
- Communicate with parents/guardians. As a school professional it is imperative that you communicate with parents or legal guardians of the student any time when restraint and/or seclusion procedures need to be used. Some states have laws on restraint and seclusion use in schools and will dictate when communication needs to take place so it is best to check your state’s laws on this; however, usually communication needs to occur the day the incident occurs and it is best to provide a written copy of the incident report as well to the parent or legal guardian.
For more information on restraint and seclusion in schools and even developing school policies in this area you can listen to a podcast done by this author and his colleague through the National Association of School Psychologists here.
About the Author
Brian M. Yankouski, Ed.S., BCBA is the Owner/CEO of B.E.S.T. Strategies, a nationally recognized Behavioral Health Center of Excellence that provides Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment to individuals with disabilities. He also developed a graduate training program in ABA at Seton Hall University. He has been nationally recognized for his work on restraint and seclusion use in schools and has published articles and a book chapter on the topic and speaks nationally at conventions annually on the issue.