District Considerations for State Board’s Seclusion and Restraint Policy

On January 15, 2013, the State Board of Education approved its Policy on Positive behavior Interventions and Support, and Restraint and Seclusion (“Policy”).  It is anticipated that the Policy and its accompanying administrative rule will become effective at the start of the 2013–2014 school year.[1]  To ensure compliance with the Policy by the start of next school year, districts should begin considering the implications of the following new provisions at this time:

1.  Policies and Procedures.  Districts must adopt policies and procedures that are “consistent with” the Policy.

–       Logistical/PracticalIssues:  Districts that authorize the use of seclusion will need to determine whether their schools have rooms or areas that are suitable for seclusion under the Policy.  Additionally, districts should begin identifying which staff members will observe students during seclusion periods and how their job duties will be covered by other employees during that time.
–       Complaint Procedures:  Seclusion and restraint policies and procedures must include complaint and investigation procedures and require districts to provide a written response to a complaint within 30 days after the complaint was filed.  Districts will want to begin outlining what the process should look like and identifying who will be involved in the investigation process.  Districts may be able to modify other complaint procedures (harassment, bullying, etc.) to incorporate these new requirements.
–       Monitoring and Emergency Procedures:  Districts will need to consider how they will collect data, how they will review the implementation of the policy, and how they will address seclusion/restraint-related emergencies.  

2.       Training.   The Policy sets forth several training requirements and requires districts to develop a plan for providing such training to staff members.  Districts will want to begin developing the training plan by identifying options for training curricula and providers, identifying staff members who should receive training, and determining when the training should occur.  The Policy establishes the following training requirements regarding seclusion and restraint:

–       All personnel who interact directly with students (e.g., teachers, principals, counselors, social workers, school resource officers, etc.) must be trained annually on the requirements of the Policy and the district’s related policies and procedures.
–       Staff must be appropriately trained to protect the care, welfare, dignity, and safety of the student.
–       An “appropriate” number of personnel must be trained in crisis management and de-escalation techniques.
–       Staff members who supervise students during seclusion periods must be trained to detect indications of physical or mental distress.
–       Staff must be able to use verbal strategies and research-based de-escalation techniques to help students regain control as soon as possible.
–       Individuals who practice restraint must be trained in safe restraint techniques.

3.       Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS).  The Policy requires districts to implement PBIS on a system-wide basis.  PBIS systems are decision-making frameworks that incorporate student data and evidence-based interventions in order to enhance academic and behavioral outcomes for all students.  Under the Policy’s PBIS training requirements, staff members must receive instruction on identifying causes of inappropriate behavior, performing preventative assessments, and developing and implementing preventative behavioral interventions.   Districts should begin determining who will take part in and receive training on the PBIS system, how the system will work, and how it will incorporate families into the process.

4.       Special Education Considerations.  IEP/504 teams will want to keep the Policy in mind when reviewing or creating IEPs or behavior plans for students that will be in effect during the 2013–2014 school year.  Specifically, teams will want to create clear steps in behavior plans to ensure that seclusion and/or restraint will only be used as a last resort to address behavioral issues.

This Legal Update is intended as general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If advice is required, please contact us at (614) 222-8686 or via email: 

Julia A. Bauer                                                 Julia@sswlaw.com
Derek L. Haggerty                                          Derek@sswlaw.com
Jessica K. Philemond                                     Jessica@sswlaw.com
Julie C. Martin                                                Julie@sswlaw.com
Patrick J. Schmitz                                           Pat@sswlaw.com
Gregory B. Scott                                             Gregory@sswlaw.com
Donald C. Scriven                                           Donald@sswlaw.com
Jennifer I. Stiff                                                 Jennifer@sswlaw.com
James K. Stucko                                             Jim@sswlaw.com
Derek L. Towster                                               Dtowster@sswlaw.com

[1] The Policy will not be legally binding until the State Board approves the proposed rule.  Provided that the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) recommends approval during its March public meeting, the Board will likely approve the rule in April.  The Ohio Department of Education is not expected to release its guidance document until May or June of 2013.  The late release of this guidance document further emphasizes the importance of considering seclusion and restraint-related issues before the end of the current school year.