Monday, December 7, 2009

A List of Questions You Can and Should Ask Your Child's School District about the "Training" Their Staff May Have Had on Restraint and Seclusion

December 7, 2009
By Jennifer Searcy
Founder/Director of Public Policy & Affairs
The Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports

Many times school districts will tell the parents of a special needs child that there may be a time when their child will "need to be restrained or put into seclusion."

Depending on the laws and policies of your state, it may be a legal requirement that restraints and seclusions may only be used in an emergency or if used in accordance with the child's individualized education plan (IEP) or behavior intervention plan (BIP). In other words, a district may be required to have your signature on file before restraint/seclusion may be used.

Parents wonder (as they should) how safe these techniques are; oftentimes, parents are reassured when districts inform parents the district's staff "is appropriately trained."

Unfortunately, this may or may not be the case.

A district may have received training in the past, but may not be up to date on their training. A district may have sent individuals to a professional "crisis management training" program offered by one of the many professional organizations which "train" non-violent, non-physical and/or physical forms of intervention, but those individuals may disregard all but the "how to restrain/seclude" aspects of their training.

"Certified instructors/trainers," who have been trained by a professional organization to provide training to others within a school district, also have the leeway of "customizing training to meet the needs of their district" - which means a certified instructor/trainer has the option of training nothing BUT restraint/seclusion use.

And finally, some of the professional training organizations do not even train in seclusion use!!

Yet the school districts claim to be following "professional protocols" and insist their staff are or have been "appropriately trained" and are only using techniques learned in training. How is this possible if the district is using seclusion yet has had staff trained by a company which does not offer training in seclusion!?

Bottom line: While it may be true that a district has sent employees to a professional training session, that doesn't mean that district employees are using the training they'd received appropriately or that the district puts into practice the philosophy of the professional training company.


If your school district wants you to agree to the use of restraint and/or seclusion for your child, especially if they want to include these aversive measures in your child's individualized education plan (IEP) or behavior intervention plan (BIP), you may want to first ask the district to respond to any or all of the questions listed below:

1. What is the name of the training company they use?

2. How long have they used this training organization?

3. Can they provide you with the name of their contact at the organization, so you can contact the training organization directly to address any questions/concerns you may have?

4. Will they provide you with the name and contact information for the trainer/instructor who "trained" the district's staff?

5. Are they willing to provide you with the names and "trainer identification cards" for any/all employees who are "trained" to restrain/seclude your child. (Please note: Many of the training companies provide those who have trained under them ID cards which contain a date of completion of training, which is generally good for 12 months after the date of issue. If the training date on their ID is more than a year old, then you know that that individual's training has "expired" and that they need to be "re-certified." Please contact us at or the training organization directly for more information.)

6. Are they willing to invite (or you could invite them yourself) any/all "trained" employees to the next IEP meeting so you can discuss their training program and methods.

7. Are they willing to ask/permit you to ask each "trained employee" if they have ever placed a child in a restraint/seclusion and to describe the circumstances surrounding its use. (Please note: Due to confidentiality laws, they may not disclose a child's name, or may be reluctant to share a specific incident, but they should be willing to discuss circumstances when they may use restraint/seclusion in "general.")

8. Does the IEP team know what training philosophy the district and/or the professional training company follows. (Hint: Some districts claim to be using a specific training organizations' techniques, such as those offered by The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI), but instead are restraining children for discipline or placing children in seclusion. CPI does not train restraint as discipline or anything about seclusion. It's against the company's "training philosophy.")

9. Are they willing to allow you to see a copy of the training manual and a copy of the trainer's manual. (Please note: I've personally spoken to some training organizations and they insist this information IS available to parents. So if the district says they can't share this info with you, tell them point blank, "That's funny, because the training organization insists that you can." And then call the training organization to report the district. OR, you could take the list of training companies with you, along with their contact information, whip out a cell phone during the meeting (or ask to use their phone) and call the training company IN FRONT OF the IEP team and explain to the training co. exactly what the district told you about access to the training manual. (That's only if you've got the moxie to do it, though :) ))

10. Are they willing to set up an appointment with a trainer who can go through a "Parent/Advocate" training module with you, as most companies are willing to explain their program to parents. (Makes it easier for the training companies to earn $$ if parents are on board - especially in states which require parental signatures along with "trained staff.")

11. Can they tell you how many times the district has used restraint and/or seclusion in their schools in the past year, and in the past 5 years, so you have a better idea how the district is really using restraint/seclusion?

12. Are they willing to provide you with the reasons why/situations when YOUR child would be placed in a restraint and/or secluded, and are they willing to commit in writing that those are the only times when restraint/seclusion will be used, short of a true "emergency?" (Please note: This way you have a better idea whether a district only uses restraints/seclusions for true emergencies, or if your child is in a situation where abuse is ripe for the taking. Please also note, that the newly proposed federal legislation, if passed as written, would prohibit schools from including restraint/seclusion in the child's IEP.)

13. Have they always used their current "trainers" and if not, are they willing to provide you with the names of the organizations used previously and the reason why they no longer use them? (Please note: You want to know what other "philosophies" and methods staff may have been exposed to, as they may pull from another "training program" in an "emergency.")

14. Can they tell you the maximum amount of time a child has been placed in a restraint and in seclusion? (Hint: If a restraint/seclusion is used at all, it should only last as long as the child poses an imminent/immediate danger of serious injury to himself/herself or others. As soon as the child is no longer a "danger," restraints (and seclusion) are to END.)

Finally, please, please, please! If you are considering agreeing to restraint and/or seclusion use for your child, ask the district to first respond to the above questions in writing before you sign on the dotted line. Once a district has your signature, if abusive practices do occur, it becomes so much harder to prove to an attorney or to a due process hearing officer because you gave your permission for the use of those techniques.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email me at

No comments: