School administrators and teachers are responsible for ensuring the safety and welfare of all students at school.  Sometimes, it is not always clear how school personnel should react when a student engages in behavior that poses a danger to him/herself or others, e.g., a fight breaks out, a student starts running towards a busy street, a student begins to throw items in the classroom, pull down shelves, etc.  When appropriately and properly used, restraint and seclusion techniques are generally safe interventions to stop a student’s seriously disruptive or dangerous behavior.

Currently, there are no specific federal laws or regulations that govern the use of restraint and seclusion techniques in schools.   However, Arizona has just recently passed a law regarding the restraint and seclusion of students by school personnel in July of 2015 (Effective July 3, 2015, A.R.S. § 15-105: use of restraint and seclusion techniques; requirements; definitions).  It is important for all school personnel to understand this new law to minimize any potential liability.

The new law applies to all schools in Arizona, whether a charter school, public school district, or private school, and includes Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind.  Arizona law allows for the use of restraint or seclusion with a student only when the student’s behavior presents an imminent danger of bodily harm to student him/herself or to others and less restrictive interventions are insufficient to mitigate the imminent danger.  Schools should never engage in the use of restraint or seclusion techniques to “punish” a child and the use of seclusion and/or restraint should never be limited by policy or practice only to students with disabilities.

Definitions

A.R.S. § 15-105 defines restraint “any method or device that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a pupil to move his/her torso, arms, legs or head freely, including physical force or mechanical devices.  The definition of restraint does not include:

  • Methods or devices implemented by trained school personnel or used by a student for the specific and approved therapeutic or safety purposes for which the method or device is designed and prescribed;
  • The brief holding of a pupil by one adult for the purpose of calming or comforting the pupil:
  • The temporary touching or holding of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder or back for the purpose of inducing a pupil to comply with a reasonable request or to go to a safe location; or
  • Physical force used to take a weapon away from a pupil or to separate and remove a pupil from another person when the pupil is engaged in a physical assault on another person.

A.R.S. § 15-105 defines seclusion as “the involuntary confinement of a pupil alone in a room from which egress is prevented.”  The definition of seclusion does not include the use of a voluntary behavior management technique, including a time out location, as part of a student’s education plan, individual safety plan, behavior plan, or IEP that involves the student’s separation from a larger group for the purposes of calming.

Requirements During Use

Arizona law contains 5 requirements when restraint or seclusion techniques are used on students:

  1. School personnel must maintain continuous visual observation and monitoring of the student while the restraint or seclusion technique is in use.
  2. The restraint or seclusion technique must stop when the student’s behavior no longer presents an imminent danger.
  3. The restraint or seclusion technique must be used only by school personnel who are trained in the safe and effective use of such techniques, unless an emergency situation does not allow sufficient time to summon trained personnel.
  4. The restraint technique may not impede the student’s ability to breathe.
  5. The restraint technique may not be out of proportion to the student’s age or physical condition.

Requirements After Use

Schools are required to establish reporting and documentation procedures following the use of restraint and/or seclusion techniques.  Even when school personnel contact law enforcement instead of using restraint or seclusion techniques on a student, the requirements under the law still apply.  Specifically, school personnel must provide the student’s parent or guardian with written or oral notice that a restraint or seclusion technique has been used with the student.  The notice must occur on the same day that the student was restrained or secluded, unless circumstances prevent same-day notification, but in any case the notice must be provided no later than 24 hours after the incident.

Additionally, school personnel must provide the student’s parent or guardian with written documentation, within a reasonable time after the incident, which includes information about any persons, locations, or activities that may have triggered the student’s behavior leading to the use of restraint and/or seclusion (if known), the type of restraint and/or seclusion technique used, and  the duration of use.

The new law does not prohibit schools from adopting policies and procedures for the reasonable use of physical force by school personnel in self-defense, defense of others and defense of property, per A.R.S. § 15-843(B)(3).

The statute can be accessed in its entirety by clicking here.

 

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Arizona’s New Law On Restraint & Seclusion or any other education law matters, please feel free to contact Education Law Attorney, Kimberly R. Davis at 480.461.5387, log on to www.udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.