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End Seclusion and Prevent Restraint in Schools
The Right to Safe in School Manual 

Every Child has the Right to Be

Safe In School

COPAA is concerned about the use of restraints, seclusion and aversive interventions as part of educational programs for children with disabilities. Restraints, seclusion and aversive interventions are neither educational nor effective. Instead, their harms and dangers are well-documented. Inappropriately used, they amount to child abuse. 

In 2008 COPAA was among the first to call for the end to these harmful practices with the release of COPAA Declaration of Principles Opposing the Use of Restraint, Seclusion and Aversive Interventions (updated March, 2011)

Restraints include physical force, mechanical devices or drugs that temporarily restrict freedom of movement or control behavior. Seclusion includes the use of locked rooms or other spaces from which students are unable to leave voluntarily. Aversive procedures use painful stimuli in response to behaviors that are deemed unacceptable by their caregivers. All aversive techniques have in common the application of physically or emotionally painful stimuli.

Children should receive effective positive behavior supports developed within a comprehensive, professionally-developed plan of behavioral accommodations, supports, and interventions. But, too often school personnel who have not been thoroughly trained in research-validated methods for promoting positive behavior change and crisis de-escalation resort to inappropriate abusive methods. Abusive methods not only place the student at risk of serious physical and psychological harm, but also violate his or her dignity and right to be free from abusive treatment.

Although some states have standards and regulations regarding restraints, seclusion and aversive interventions, the existing laws are not uniform and may not be enforced. Other states provide little or no protection for children at all. Because there is no monitoring on a national level, the full extent of death, injuries, and harm from the use of these techniques is unknown.

Every child is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. No child with a disability should be subjected to abusive treatment under the guise of providing educational services. Civilized nations protect the human rights of all of their citizens and residents, particularly those who are unable to advocate for themselves, including children.


COPAA Continues Work towards Passage of Federal Bills Addressing the Use of Restraints, Seclusion and Aversives in Schools

We believe a federal bill is necessary to set forth minimum standards for states to protect children from what has historically been unacceptable use of these methods and set up a structure to prevent future abuse.

COPAA was privileged to have the opportunity to work with other stakeholders in helping to draft S. 3626/HR 7124 The Keeping All Students Safe Act, introduced by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rep. Beyer (D-VA). 


The bicameral bill establishes minimum safety standards for Head Start and K-12 schools by:

  • Requiring regulations from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services
  • Prohibiting: seclusion, mechanical restraints, chemical restraints, physical restraint that restricts breathing or is life threatening, and any form of aversive behavioral interventions
  • Requiring certification of staff conducting physical restraint that meets the minimum standards
  • Prohibiting physical restraint as a planned intervention - focusing on prevention and reduction; only allowing restraint in situations where there is imminent danger of physical harm
  • Requiring parental notification and follow-up meetings if a physical restraint occurs
  • Supporting states to provide training to better ensure the safety in schools and to establish monitoring and enforcement systems
  • Increasing transparency, oversight, and enforcement to prevent future abuse and death

Read a Fact Sheet about the Keeping All Students Safe bill


Read section-by-section outline of the Keeping All Students Safe bill.  


Read the full text of the bill

It is well-documented that the use of restraint and seclusion in schools is neither effective nor therapeutic. Instead, it is mentally and physically abusive. Despite this, thousands of cases of restraint and seclusion occur in our nation's schools annually, often with tragic results.

For years, the use of restraint, seclusion, and aversives in schools was unpublicized and little-known, despite its widespread use. However, recent reports, congressional testimony by COPAA, the National Disability Rights Network, and the U.S. General Accounting Office have served to shine a spotlight on these abusive practices. 


Unsafe in the Schoolhouse: Abuse of Children with Disabilities, COPAA.(2009)

School is Not Supposed to Hurt: Investigative Report on Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools, NDRN. (2009)

Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers (GAO-09-719T).

K-12 Education Discipline Disparities for Black Students, Boys and Students with Disabilities.


Specifically, COPAA supports the following provisions of the federal bills:


  • Prohibition against use of seclusion in Head Start settings and K-12 schools.
  • Prohibition against restraint unless

o   a student's behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical injury to self or others

o   less restrictive interventions would be ineffective in stopping such imminent danger

o   physical restraint ends immediately upon the cessation of the conditions that led to it

o   physical restraint does not interfere with the student’s ability to communicate in the student’s primary language or primary mode of communication

o   physical restraint uses the least amount of force necessary to protect the student or others from the threatened injury.


  • Prohibition against the use of aversive interventions that compromise health and safety
  • Prohibition against mechanical and chemical restraints and interventions that restrict airflow.
  • Requirement for face-to-face monitoring to quickly detect physical or psychological distress, except in circumstances where staff safety is significantly compromised, requiring direct visual monitoring.
  • Prohibition against placement of restraint [or seclusion] on a child's IEP (Individual Education Program), behavioral plan, or other educational planning document.
  • Requirement that restraint be implemented only by trained personnel and cease when there is no longer a threat of harm.
  • Requirement that when restraint occurs notice is provided to parents within 24 hours and that a mandatory meeting of staff involved, the child (if appropriate) and the parents occur within 5 working days.
  • Requirement for the collection and public reporting of data.
  • Requirement for public data about restraint and seclusion that protects student privacy, including data on the number of incidents, injuries, cases of death, and a demographic breakdown.
  • Allows for a right of action and includes protection of parents' and children's existing rights under federal and state law, including existing state health codes and safety regulations;
  • Requirement that referrals are made to the State Protection & Advocacy Center to investigate and obtain legal remedies for students who are subject to violations under the provisions of the proposed act.
  • Assures that the definition of seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving, except that such term does not include a time out.

We believe these provisions are critical to provide a minimum floor of protection that does not yet exist in all states and highlights the need for all states to raise the bars of protection and safety in every state, for all students.

COPAA looks forward to continuing its partnership with the Members of Congress who are committed to passage of federal protection and is proud of the significant role played in the construct of a federal bill. 

Website resource: www.stophurtingkids.com

Disclaimer: The COPAA web site is not engaged in rendering professional advice services. The information provided through COPAA's web site or any links from COPAA's site is provided solely as a public service. The inclusion of any resource or link on COPAA's web site does not imply endorsement or a recommendation.

Document-End Use of Restraint/Seclusion in Schools

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Item Name Posted By Date Posted
COPAA Declaration of Principles (Updated 2011) PDF (42.1 KB)  more ] Administration 1/14/2013
Why We Need Federal Legistation (2019) PDF (170.98 KB) Administration 6/29/2019
Vision or Hindsight: Why Need Fed Bill (7/2012) PDF (45.81 KB)  more ] Administration 6/29/2019
Support S 2020 Keeping All Students Safe (6/2012) PDF (87.71 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
US DOE Principles re Restraint/Seclusion (5/2012) PDF (1.53 MB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
How Safe is the Schoolhouse? (2012) Link  more ] Administration 7/16/2013
CENTENNIAL SCHOOL: SYSTEMIC CHANGE (2005) PDF (92.92 KB)  more ] Administration 1/14/2013
UnSafe in The Schoolhouse (2009) PDF (494.63 KB)  more ] Administration 4/9/2013
IDEA Requirements for Use of PBS (2001) PDF (49.56 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
CCBD Position on Use of Seclusion 7-8-09 PDF (167.16 KB)  more ] Administration 1/14/2013
CCBD on Use of Restraint, 7-8-09 PDF (128.78 KB)  more ] Administration 1/14/2013
Risks of Restraints PDF (848.18 KB) Administration 1/14/2013
Standing in Our Own Shoes (6/2012) PDF (28.33 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
CCD Letter Support of HR 1381 & S 2020 (7/2012) PDF (56.39 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
COPAA Response to AASA (7/2012) PDF (113.75 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
COPAA Support H.R. 1381 (4/2011) PDF (66.16 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
CT OCR Complaint (1/2012) PDF (55.48 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
S. 2020 Summary (2011) PDF (184.8 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
Physical Education: Amending IDEA...(4/2007) PDF (98.96 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
Use of Brief Functional Analysis...(2007) PDF (476.89 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
End of Seclusion and Restraint (2006) PDF (93.76 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
In the Name of Treatment: Parent Guide (2005) PDF (294.45 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
Learning From Each Other: Success Stories (2003) PDF (291.82 KB)  more ] Administration 10/17/2012
Human Services Restraint:Past and Future (2008) PDF (92.41 KB)  more ] Administration 1/14/2013
Adverse Effects Assoc. W/Physical Restraint(2003) PDF (132.96 KB)  more ] Administration 1/14/2013

State Level Advocacy

Item Name Posted By Date Posted
Model Restraint/Seclusion State Bill (2014) DOCX (34.69 KB)  more ] Administration 8/29/2014
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