503.6 Physical Restraint and Seclusion of Students

503.6 Physical Restraint and Seclusion of Students

It is the goal of the district that all students can learn and grow in a safe and peaceful environment that nurtures the student and models respect for oneself and others.  On occasion, trained district employees and others may have to use behavior management interventions, physical restraint and/or seclusion of students.  The goal of these interventions is to promote the dignity, care, safety, welfare and security of each child and the school community.  With this objective in mind, the district will prioritize the use of the least restrictive behavioral interventions appropriate for the situation.

Physical restraint means a personal restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move the student’s arms, legs, body, or head freely.  Physical restraint does not mean a technique used by trained school personnel, or used by a student, for the specific and approved therapeutic or safety purposes for which the technique was designed and, if applicable, prescribed.  Physical restraint does not include instructional strategies, such as physically guiding a student during an educational task, hand-shaking, hugging, or other non-disciplinary physical contact. 

Seclusion means the involuntary confinement of a child in a seclusion room or area from which the child is prevented or prohibited from leaving; however, preventing a child from leaving a classroom or school building are not considered seclusion.  Seclusion does not include instances when a school employee is present within the room and providing services to the child, such as crisis intervention or instruction. 

Physical restraint or seclusion is reasonable or necessary only:

  • To prevent or terminate an imminent threat of bodily injury to the student or others; or
  • To prevent serious damage to property of significant monetary value or significant nonmonetary value or importance; or
  • When the student’s actions seriously disrupt the learning environment or when physical restraint or seclusion is necessary to ensure the safety of the student or others; and
  • When less restrictive alternatives to seclusion or physical restraint would not be effective, would not be feasible under the circumstances, or have failed in preventing or terminating the imminent threat or behavior; and
  • When the physical restraint or seclusion complies with all applicable laws.

Prior to using physical restraint or seclusion, employees must receive training in accordance with the law.  Any individual who is not employed by the district but whose duties could require the individual to use or be present during the use of physical restraint or seclusion on a student will be invited to participate in the same training offered to employees on this topic. 

When required by law, the superintendent or the superintendent’s designee will ensure a post-occurrence debriefing meeting is held, maintain documentation and fulfill all reporting requirements for each occurrence of physical restraint or seclusion as required by law. 

Legal Reference:         

Iowa Code §§ 279.8; 280.21.

281 I.A.C. 103.

Cross Reference:    402.3   Abuse of Students by School District Employees

                                    502      Student Rights and Responsibilities

                                    503      Student Discipline

                                    503.5    Corporal Punishment, Mechanical Restraint and Prone Restraint

Approved  10/20/2021                        Reviewed                                             Revised                   

503.6E1 Use of Physical Restraint and/or Seclusion Documentation Form

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503.6E2 Debriefing Letter to Guardian of Student Involved in an Occurrence Where Physical Restraint and/or Seclusion Was Used

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503.6E3 Debriefing Meeting Document

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503.6R1 Use of Physical Restraint and Seclusion with Students

The District will comply with 281 Iowa Administrative Code Ch. 103 for the use of physical restraint and seclusion with students, including, but not limited to:

  • Physical restraint and seclusion will be used only by employees who have been trained in accordance with applicable law unless a trained employee is not immediately available due to the unforeseeable nature of the occurrence.
  • As soon as practical after the situation is under control, but within one hour after either the occurrence or the end of the school day, whichever occurs first, the school will attempt to contact the student’s parent or guardian using the school’s emergency contact system.
  • The seclusion or physical restraint is used only for as long as necessary based on research and evidence to allow the student to regain control of their behavior to the point that the threat or behavior necessitating the use of the seclusion or physical restraint has ended, or when a medical condition occurs that puts the student at risk of harm.  Unless otherwise provided for in the student’s written approved IEP, BIP, IHP or safety plan, if the seclusion or physical restraint continues for more than 15 minutes:
    • The student will be provided with any necessary breaks to attend to personal and bodily needs, unless doing so would endanger the child or others.
    • An employee will obtain approval from an administrator or administrator’s designee to continue seclusion or physical restraint beyond 15 minutes.  After the initial approval, an employee must obtain additional approval every 30 minutes thereafter for the continuation of the seclusion or physical restraint.
    • The student’s parent or guardian and the school may agree to more frequent notifications than is required by law.
    • Schools and district employees must document and explain in writing the reasons why it was not possible for the employees to obtain approval, notify parents, or take action within prescribed time limits.
    • Schools and district employees who begin and then end use of nonapproved restraints will document and explain in writing the reasons why they had no other option but to use this type of behavioral intervention.
  • The area of seclusion will be a designated seclusion room that complies with the seclusion room requirements in accordance with law, unless the nature of the occurrence makes the use of the designated seclusion room impossible, clearly impractical, or clearly contrary to the safety of the student, others, or both; in that event, the school must document and explain in writing the reasons why a designated seclusion room was not used.
  • An employee must continually visually monitor the student for the duration of the seclusion or physical restraint.
  • If an employee restrains a student who uses sign language or an augmentive mode of communication as the student’s primary mode of communication, the student shall be permitted to have the student’s hands free of physical restraint, unless doing so is not feasible in view of the threat posed.
  • Seclusion or physical restraint shall not be used:  as punishment or discipline; to force compliance or to retaliate; as a substitute for appropriate educational or behavioral support; to prevent property damage except as provided in law; as a routine school safety measure; or as a convenience to staff.
  • The Superintendent or the Superintendent’s designee will investigate any complaint or allegation that one or more employees violated any provisions of 281 Iowa Administrative Code Ch. 103.  If the District determines a violation has occurred, corrective action will be taken up to and including termination of the employees involved.  If the allegation or complaint involves a specific student the District will notify the parents or guardian of the involved student about the results of the investigation.  If any allegation or complaint is also defined as abuse in 281 Iowa Administrative Code 102.2, the procedures listed in chapter 102 will apply.
  • The District must comply with and implement Chapter 103 whether or not a parent consents to the use of physical restraint or seclusion.