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Special Education Tip – Restraint Is Not What You Think It Is – 36-2017

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Rochelle’s Special Education Tips

Restraint Is Not What You Think It Is

School systems are faced with a growing number of children, particularly young children, who unfortunately engage in aggressive, harmful behaviors, which result in the need for the use of restraints to keep the children and others safe. No one is happy about the need to use restraint and opponents of restraint are continually citing statistics about the overuse of restraint. Perhaps one reason for the increase in the cited number of restraints in Maryland is because educators are writing up as “restraints” incidents of physical holding that do not qualify as restraints. Look at COMAR 13A.08.04.02. It defines a restraint as “the use of a physical or mechanical restraint.” Mechanical restraints are not allowed. But consider what COMAR states is NOT a restraint:

(i) Briefly holding a student to calm or comfort the student;
(ii) Holding a student’s hand or arm to escort the student safely from one area to another;
(iii) Moving a disruptive student who is unwilling to leave the area if other methods such as counseling have been unsuccessful; or
(iv) Intervening in a fight in accordance with Education Article Section 7-307, Annotated Code of Maryland.

Section 7-307 states,

(1) A principal, teacher, school security guard, or other school system personnel in any public school may take reasonable action necessary to prevent violence on school premises or on a school-sponsored trip, including intervening in a fight or physical struggle that takes place in his or her presence, whether the fight is among students or other individuals.
(2) The degree and force of the intervention may be as reasonably necessary to prevent violence, restore order and to protect the safety of the combatants and surrounding individuals.

If the physical holding used does not qualify as a restraint according to the above regulations and law, do not write it up as a restraint. You should still write it up to record the incident occurred, on a disciplinary form or behavioral data write-up form, and notify the parents. But if you are writing up incidents of physical holding that are not considered by Maryland law and regulations as restraints, you are unnecessarily contributing to the negative perception of over-use of restraints.

Rochelle’s Special Education Tips (“Tips”) are designed to be helpful and thought provoking, but should not be considered legal advice as they may not be accurate for use in all situations. Tips are based on my opinions and positions in accordance with federal and Maryland law and my over 35 years of experience in the special education legal field. – Rochelle S. Eisenberg, Esquire
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Tips may be reproduced for distribution within the educational institution, the individual school or school system and is for use by their staff. Additional distribution must be approved by author.
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