How Safe Is The Schoolhouse? An Analysis of State Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies, updated January 20, 2014, contains information updated through January 2014 about state restraint and seclusion statutes, regulations, and policies.
The purpose of How Safe is the Schoolhouse is to analyze and compare state restraint and seclusion laws and guidance and provide information on trends (e.g. the number of states with a particular feature and exceptions to that feature). Seclusion and restraint are highly dangerous interventions that have led to death, injury, and trauma in children. They stand in sharp contrast to positive behavioral support programs and de-escalation techniques that resolve most challenging situations. More states adopted statutes and regulations restricting use of restraint and seclusion in 2013. The report examines how the majority of states still operate under weak laws and laws with loopholes that undermine seemingly-strong protections. It also analyzes features of strong laws and proposals that would protect children and create positive learning environments.
How Safe is the Schoolhouse uses 51 "states" to include the District of Columbia. The report finds that as of January 2014:
- Only 19 states have laws providing meaningful protections against both restraint and seclusion for all children; 32, for children with disabilities.
- Only 14 states by law require that an emergency threatening physical danger exist before restraint can be used for all children; 18, for children with disabilities. Restraint must be limited to these emergencies because it is dangerous; the GAO documented the deaths of 20 children from restraint alone. Many state laws have loopholes that circumvent protections.
are 34 states that in their laws or guidance would define seclusion as a
room a child cannot exit (door is locked, or blocked by furniture,
equipment, child-proofing, staff, etc.). There are 11 states that
protect all children from non-emergency seclusion; 17 protect children
with disabilities. By law, only 1 state bans all seclusion for all
children; 4, for children with disabilities. Another 10 have statutes
and regulations applicable to all children that limit seclusion to
emergencies threatening physical harm. 13 apply this standard to
children with disabilities. Seclusion is highly dangerous. Students
have died, attempted suicide, and been injured and traumatized.
Students have been secluded for hours each school day and repeatedly.
17 states by law require that less intrusive methods either fail or be
deemed ineffective before seclusion/restraint are used on all children;
23, children with disabilities. By contrast, in school districts
and schools where positive behavioral support programs are used,
restraint and seclusion use is minimal, if at all. Behavior improves
and more students spend time learning--rather than in confinement rooms
that impede breathing and threaten life are forbidden by law in only 21
states for all children; 28 states, for children with disabilities.
Mechanical restraints include chairs and other devices that children
are locked into; duct tape, bungee cords, ties, and rope used to
restrain children; and other devices. Only 15 states ban mechanical
restraint for all children; 19 for students with disabilities. Only 15
states ban dangerous chemical restraints for all children. Children
locked and tied into mechanical restraints and confined in seclusion
rooms at particularly grave risk.
20 states, schools must by law notify all parents of both restraint and
seclusion; in 32, parents of students with disabilities. The vast
majority of states favor notification in 1 day or less, either in their
laws or recommended policies. (See Parental Notification Laws at a
Glance, p.38). It is important to notify parents quickly, so they can
seek medical care for injuries (hidden or obvious) and trauma.
Notification also enables parents to work with schools to implement
positive supports and prevent further use of restraint or seclusion.
collection is very important. In its 2009 report, the GAO found that
state data collection varied significantly. Only 12 states collect even
minimal data for all students; 19 for students with disabilities. More
states require data keeping at the state, local, or school level,
indicating that keeping such records is not burdensome. Data gives
schools benchmarks to measure themselves against and enables public
oversight and sunshine.
Arizona adopted a new statute providing some limited protections from seclusion, Arizona House Bill HB 2476, signed by Governor Janice K. Brewer amended A. R. 5. § 15-843. Thank you to Rep. Kelly Townsend for introducing the legislation, and Hope Kirsch for speaking before the House and Senate in support of the legislation.
How Safe is the Schoolhouse is updated twice a year. The next update will be in Summer 2014, when several state legislative sessions end. The report is available free of charge at
For people who simply want to quickly see very brief highlights their own state law or policy, there is a sister report, My State’s Seclusion & Restraint Laws (http://www.autcom.org/pdf/MyStateRestraintSeclusionLaws.pdf).