ODE Bans Many Restraint and Seclusion Practices

Many of us were utterly horrified, watching Matilda and seeing children tortured by being thrown into Miss Trunchbull’s “Chokey,” a narrow closet with broken glass and exposed nails sticking out of the walls. Such things had to be illegal, we thought, and were certainly unethical and not happening in the real world. But, while there may not be actual “Chokeys” in today’s schools, the underlying concept of using restraint and seclusion as a disciplinary method is alive and well in Ohio and across the country. 

In the educational context “restraint” means when an educator confines a student in such a way that they are unable to freely move their arms, legs, head or torso. “Seclusion” is when students are involuntarily confined by themselves in a room or area that they are physically prevented from leaving. Though these practices have been a regular part of schooling since the nation’s founding, in recent years educators and other experts have determined that these techniques are dangerous and ineffective.  

Restraints should only be used for medically approved purposes, documented in a student’s official school records, and in medically approved manners, and seclusion should not occur at all. Improper use of restraints has caused student injuries and deaths, according to a 2012 U.S. Department of Education report 

Unfortunately, both restraint and seclusion are commonly used tactics in Ohio schools. In the 2019-2020 school year, there were more than 14,050 incidents of school staff restraining students and 7,560 incidents of seclusion, according to data from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). 

Happily, ODE has spent the past few years rewriting Ohio’s rules regarding restraint and seclusion, and now severely limits their permissible uses. Under the new rules, which went into effect in June 2021, schools are banned from using any form of restraint that involves placing knees on a student’s torso, head or neck; any form of restraint that involves pressure points, pain compliance or joint manipulation techniques; any form of restraint that is used to unnecessarily cause pain; corporal punishment; child endangerment; deprivation of basic needs; chemical or mechanical restraints; aversive behavioral interventions; and seclusion in a locked room or area. Schools also can no longer use any form of restraint or seclusion on preschool children. 

Even restraints and seclusions that are not banned are strictly monitored. Any form of restraint or seclusion is only permitted when there is an immediate risk of physical harm to the student or others. The staff administering the restraint or seclusion must be appropriately trained on protecting the care, welfare, dignity and safety of the student and must continually monitor the student and seek medical care if there is any sign of distress. During the restraint or seclusion, the staff member must actively engage in de-escalation techniques to end the need for it and remove it immediately when the immediate risk of physical harm dissipates. After the incident, the staff must conduct a debriefing, where they evaluate the trigger, staff response, and possible methods to address the student’s needs in the future. 

If you feel your child was improperly restrained or secluded, you should contact an attorney. LASC an represent families in these cases if they are income eligible.

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