Document Type

Policy Brief


University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies

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Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

The use of restraint and seclusion for managing children’s behaviors in schools has led to physical and psychological harm, and, in the most extreme cases, even death. For more than a decade, the level of research and concern regarding restraint and seclusion in schools has grown. The experience of being restrained and secluded in school can be traumatizing and life-altering, particularly for children with developmental, mental health, or intellectual disabilities. While adults and children in mental health and correctional facilities are protected by law from the unnecessary use of restraints and seclusion, no federal law protects our children in schools.

Restraint is defined as the act of preventing a student from moving freely. A physical restraint involves the immobilization of the head, body, and limbs by others. Mechanical restraints include duct tape, rope, chairs, and other devices that limit student movement. Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a child within a space (e.g., classroom, closet, “quiet room,” box).

Parents send children to school with trust and an expectation that they will be safe from harm. Yet federal and private studies indicated that students are experiencing more incidents of restraint, seclusion and injury. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the majority of children who experience restraint and seclusion in schools are those with disabilities.


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