Education Department Seeks New Restraints, Seclusion Data for All Students

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The feds hope to soon begin collecting information on the use of restraints and seclusion in schools as part of its Civil Rights Data Collection, or CRDC. The notice of proposed information collection requests was published last week on the Federal Register.

Student restraint and seclusion has been a hot topic this year ever since a Government Accountability Office report highlighted allegations of abuse and the potentially deadly consequences of using certain forms of behavior management, often times for special education students. Historically a state or local training issue, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called on states to work with the Department of Education to increase awareness and transparency and to form best practices.

The new request by the feds defines restraints as any manual method, physical or mechanical device, material, or equipment that immobilizes the ability of an individual to move his or her arms, legs, body, or head freely. Seclusion is defined as involuntary confinement of an individual alone in a room or area from which the individual is physically prevented from leaving.

This could affect school transportation services. Increasingly school transportation services are falling under the scope of the feds as child safety restraint systems used to increase passenger safety could fall under the definition of restraints and seclusion. Last month, Peggy Burns of Education Compliance Group told School Transportation News that school buses could now be viewed as an extension of the classroom, especially in those cases when students with severe disabilities present extraordinary behavior issues.

The data collected would include the number of reported incidents of student restraints or seclusion of both IDEA and non-IDEA students and would collect each student’s race, ethnicity and sex. The Department of Education is also proposing similar new data collection on all student harassment or bullying policies at schools and the number of incidents.

If finalized, all data for the 2009-2010 school year would be due next fall. A public comment period lasts through Nov. 10, 2009.