The Federal law in this area is not well defined. However, two United States Supreme
Court cases provide guidance on the constitutional parameters of the use of restraints. In Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 US 307 (1982), the Court ruled that an individual at a state mental institution has a liberty interest to be free from undue restraint and that the state has an obligation to provide training to individuals who restrain patients. The Court’s ruling not only protects
individuals from unnecessary restraint, but also helps ensure the safety of the individual being restrained. At least one Federal Court has applied Youngberg’s requirements to the use of restraints in public schools. Heidemann v. Rother, 84 F.3d, 1021 (1996).
IDEIA 2004 directs, in Section 614(d)(3)(B)(i) the IEP Team to “in the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports and other strategies to address that behavior”.
When a child with a disability engages in conduct that permits a change of that child’s placement, the IDEA also requires schools to perform functional behavioral assessments (FBA) and develop behavior intervention plans (BIP) to address the student’s behavior. 34 CFR §300.520. The school shall convene an IEP meeting to develop an assessment plan. If the child already has a (BIP), the IDEA requires the IEP team to meet to review the plan and its implementation, and make whatever modifications are necessary to address the student’s behavior. 34 CFR §300.520. If restraints are considered as a behavioral intervention for a student who risks harming him/her self or others, then the IEP team should consider whether a
protocol for restraints should become part of the student’s BIP or IEP or both. 20 USC §1415; 34 CFR §300.346, §300.347. If the student does not have an IEP or a BIP, restraints can still be necessary under extreme circumstances. [Note: IDEIA 2004 revises some of the discipline protections available to children with disabilities, but further clarification will not be available until the regulations are finalized.]