The use of time out and restraint are often the last disciplinary means available to get a student under control and maintain order over the school environment when a student endangers him or herself or others. It also may lead to serious physical injury, as well as legal liability when used improperly or excessively. It is the policy of the State of Texas to treat with dignity and respect all students, including students with disabilities who receive special education services. This article will review state law on restraint and offer resources for the implementation of proper restraint techniques on your campus.
Time Out And Restraint Defined
Under Texas Education Code § 37.0021, restraint means the use of physical force or a mechanical device to significantly restrict the free movement of all or a portion of the student’s body. The Texas Administrative Code, 19 TAC § 89.1053, sets out the procedures for use of restraint and time outs. Under those provisions, a school employee, volunteer, or independent contractor may use restraint only in an “emergency,” defined as “a situation in which a student’s behavior poses a threat of (1) imminent, serious physical harm to the student or others; or (2) imminent, serious property destruction.” Restraint must be limited to the use of such reasonable force as is necessary to address the emergency; discontinued at the point at which the emergency no longer exists; implemented in such a way as to protect the health and safety of the student and others; and must not deprive the student of basic human necessities.[s2If !current_user_can(access_s2member_ccap_springsped)]Read the rest of this article.[/s2If] [s2If current_user_can(access_s2member_ccap_springsped)]
Time-out is a recognized behavior management technique in which, to provide a student with an opportunity to regain self-control, the student is separated from other students for a limited period in a setting: (1) that is not locked; and (2) from which the exit is not physically blocked by furniture, a closed door held shut from the outside, or another inanimate object. A school employee, volunteer, or independent contractor may use time-out except that (1) physical force or threat of physical force must not be used to place a student in time-out; (2) time-out may only be used in conjunction with an array of positive behavior intervention strategies and techniques and must be included in the student’s individualized education program (IEP) and/or behavior intervention plan (BIP) if it is utilized on a recurrent basis to increase or decrease a targeted behavior; and (3) use of time-out must not be implemented in a fashion that precludes the ability of the student to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum and advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals specified in the student’s IEP.
Training Is Required
Training in accepted standards and practices must be provided to school employees, volunteers, or independent contractors and to a core team of personnel on each campus, including a campus administrator or designee and any general or special education personnel likely to use restraint. Personnel called upon to use restraint in an emergency and who have not received prior training must receive training within 30 school days following the use of restraint. Training must include prevention, de-escalation techniques, and alternatives to restraint.
Training for school employees, volunteers, or independent contractors must be provided as follows: (1) general or special education personnel who implement time-out based on requirements established in a student’s IEP and/or BIP; and (2) newly-identified personnel called upon to implement time-out based on requirements established in a student’s IEP and/or BIP within 30 school days of being assigned the responsibility for implementing time-out. Training must be provided as part of a program which addresses a full continuum of positive behavioral intervention strategies, and must address the impact of time-out on the ability of the student to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum and advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals specified in the student’s IEP. All trained personnel must receive instruction in current professionally accepted practices and standards regarding behavior management and the use of time-out.
The Law Requires Documentation
In a case in which restraint is used, school employees, volunteers, or independent contractors must implement the following documentation requirements: (1) on the day restraint is utilized, the campus administrator or designee must be notified verbally or in writing regarding the use of restraint; and (2) on the day restraint is utilized, a good faith effort must be made to verbally notify the parent(s) regarding the use of restraint. In addition, written notification must be placed in the mail or otherwise provided to the parent within one school day. Documentation must also be placed in the student’s special education eligibility folder in a timely manner so the information is available to the admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee when it considers the impact of the student’s behavior on the student’s learning and/or the creation or revision of a BIP. Written notification to the parent(s) and documentation to the student’s special education eligibility folder must include the following: (1) name of the student; (2) name of the staff member(s) administering the restraint; (3) date of the restraint and the time the restraint began and ended; (3) location of the restraint; (4) nature of the restraint; (5) a description of the activity in which the student was engaged immediately preceding the use of restraint; (6) the behavior that prompted the restraint; (7) the efforts made to de-escalate the situation and alternatives to restraint that were attempted; and (8) information documenting parent contact and notification.
Necessary documentation or data collection regarding the use of time-out, if any, must be addressed in the IEP or BIP. The ARD committee must use any collected data to judge the effectiveness of the intervention and provide a basis for making determinations regarding its continued use.
What About An Emergency Involving Weapons Or The Threat Of Bodily Harm
The restrictions on the confinement, seclusion, and restraint of students with disabilities do not prevent a student’s locked, unattended confinement in an emergency situation while awaiting the arrival of law enforcement personnel if: (1) the student possesses a weapon; and (2) the confinement is necessary to prevent the student from causing bodily harm to the student or another person. TEC § 37.0021.
Department of Education Offers Resource for Effective Implementation of Restraint and Seclusion
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education published Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document. The document describes 15 basic principles to consider when developing or revising policies and procedures on the use of restraint and seclusion. The principals underscore the idea that restraint and seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others. In addition, restraint and seclusion should be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff. According to the Department of Ed: “Restraint or seclusion should not be used as routine school safety measures; that is, they should not be implemented except in situations where a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious harm to self or others and not as a routine strategy implemented to address instructional problems or inappropriate behavior (e.g., disrespect, noncompliance, insubordination, out of seat), as a means of coercion or retaliation, or as a convenience.”
This comprehensive Department of Ed guidance document not only outlines key principles related to seclusion and restraint but it also provides numerous resources for the effective implementation of these discipline techniques, links to state law and regulations, case studies, and scholarly articles on the subject. Ultimately, the goal of the resource document is to support schools in ensuring that they foster a safe and healthy learning environment for all children.[/s2If]