What do I do if school staff physically restrains my child?
Dr. Pelangka explains that under federal and California law, restraint and seclusion are permitted “only as a last resort,” which is defined as whenever the student has placed themselves or others in imminent danger.
It’s important for parents to know that it’s illegal for anyone at school to restrain a child if they have not been certified in the restraint procedures. Dr. Pelangka says, “Any student who has restraint written into their IEP/BIP is required to have the necessary number of certified staff with them at all times to meet their needs.”
Chris Arroyo adds that parents can write a letter to be included in the IEP that clarifies under what circumstances restraint and seclusion can and cannot be used. However, he warns against giving written consent to the school to use seclusion or physical restraint, even for emergencies.
Instead, he says, ask for a behavioral plan and a crisis and de-escalation plan. It’s important to work through the root causes of the behavior and propose alternative strategies to avoid the behavior occurring in the first place.
Note your concerns in the IEP and ask to be informed in any emergency situation. If the school district doesn’t comply or follow up with regulation, you can file a compliance complaint or make a written request for an IEP review to address the situation.
Dr. Pelangka advises parents, “If you believe restraint and seclusion are being misused, call an emergency IEP meeting and present the case to the team.”
For more information about this topic, see our article Restraint and Seclusion.