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Legislature Revises Requirements for Use of Restraints on Disabled Students

Educational facilities, including public school districts, may use physical restraints to support students with disabilities experiencing significant behavioral difficulties. Such interventions must be implemented by trained personnel. On January 8, 2018, the New Jersey Legislature approved Senate Bill 1163, which updated the requirements for use of restraints on students with disabilities in school districts, educational services commissions, and approved private schools for students with disabilities.

As a threshold matter, physical restraint is defined as the “use of a personal restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move all or a portion of his or her body.” Under the new requirements, restraints must only be used in emergency situations in which the student’s behavior places the student or others in immediate physical danger. Restraints must be used minimally – school districts should avoid the use of physical restraints by implementing other interventions to address a student’s behavior, such positive behavior support plans.

If a physical restraint must be used, only individuals who have received training from an entity determined by the board of education to be qualified to provide such training can implement a restraint on a student. Training to staff must be annually. These staff members must also implement restraints in accordance with the board of education’s policy.

Once a restraint is used, the school district must immediately notify the parents/legal guardians of the student and provide a written report to them within 48 hours. Further, written documentation of the incident prompting the use of the physical restraint must be maintained in order to assist the student’s educational team in determining appropriate programming and supports for the student.

Senate Bill 1163 also modifies requirements regarding seclusion, which is the “involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving, but does not include a timeout.”

Boards of education should review their policies regarding physical restraints and seclusion techniques in consultation with their board attorney to ensure they are consistent with the new requirements.

 

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Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev

About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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