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How Safe Is The Schoolhouse?

by Wrightslaw

Updated January 2014! How Safe Is The Schoolhouse? An Analysis of State Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies by Jessica Butler. This Report has been updated to include changes made through 2014 to state restraint and seclusion laws and policies. The brief executive summary provides a quick bullet point overview of the information.

How Safe Is The Schoolhouse? An Analysis of State Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies by Jessica Butler

Seclusion and restraint are highly dangerous interventions that have led to death, injury, and trauma in children.

There is no federal law that protects children from seclusion/restraint. Bills have been introduced by Congressman George Miller (April 2011, the Keeping All Students Safe Act, H.R. 1381.) and Senator Tom Harkin (December 2011, the Keeping All Students Safe Act, S. 2020.)

With no single federal law, American children are covered by a patchwork of state laws, regulations, nonbinding guidelines, and even silence.

Some state laws are strong; others are weak or nonexistent. Where a child lives still determines the protection he/she gets. Parents and the public are often ignorant of what the state laws are.  Do you know what protection is offered in your state?

Jessica Butler analyzes and compares state approaches to seclusion and restraint and reviews state policies in a new Report that includes the most recent laws and regulations about seclusions and restraint. The report contains a summary of state restraint and seclusion laws.

Today, there are 29 states with statutes and regulations providing meaningful protections against restraint and/or seclusion. (In 2009, there were only 22.) These have the force of law and must be obeyed.

Even the 29 states offer varying protections, with key safeguards present in some states and missing in others. There are 13 states with nonbinding guidelines, but these lack the force of law and can be readily changed by the State Department of Education. They are not the equivalent of statutes or regulations.

How Safe Is The Schoolhouse? An Analysis of State Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies written by Jessica Butler and published at The Autism National Committee, analyzes and compares state approaches to seclusion and restraint. This review of state policies was updated (May 2013) (January 2013) and includes a summary of state restraint and seclusion laws.

The report concludes with some examples of important state law protections for children. What is the law in your state? You will want to read this comprehensive Report and review the charts and maps.  Download the Report (PDF)

More about Restraint and Seclusion in Schools

About the Author

Jessica Butler is the Congressional Affairs Coordinator for the Autism National Committee ( AutCom has worked for over 20 years to eradicate the use of abusive interventions upon people with autism and other disabilities. Jessica is the mother of a child with autism and an attorney who lives in Virginia. She served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates in 2007-08, and on the Board of Directors from 2004-2009. She was a principal coordinator of COPAA’s Congressional Affairs program in 2004-2009. She is the author of UNSAFE IN THE SCHOOLHOUSE: ABUSE OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES (COPAA 2009), which describes over 180 cases in which students were subjected to restraint and seclusion.

The maps in this report are in color but will also print/xerox properly in black and white.  The maps and charts can also be extracted for people who wish to do that.

You can email Jessica at

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David1 04/02/12 at 8:14 am

    My child’s school literally used a former storage closet that was modified to lock from the inside and moved directly from mainstream to a one on one teacher and a shadow after we reported injuries from the former shadow to my son.

  • 2 Betty 03/15/12 at 10:49 am

    In our state the complaint process is so bad that most of the time the State finds for the school district and the child suffers from the consequences. Our State Laws our pretty congruent with the federal laws but the complaint system is so flawed that the laws do little good. When I send complaints to the OCR I get the either we will not investigate or the royal run around. I have been waiting for a year to receive the results of an investigation. What happened to the 60 day time limit? To top it all off the feds are no longer taking appeal cases from the state complaints. I am an advocate of 21 years and this is the most discriminatory time in that 20 years that I have ever seen! With the zero tolerance laws giving schools the chance to really discriminate against the disabled child, I have no authority to help.

  • 3 Sandy 03/14/12 at 9:44 am

    This report is incredibly comprehensive and well presented – well worth the read – thanks to Jess Butler for what must have been an enormous amount of work!