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Updated November 24, 2021


Have you been following the news?  It seems like every week I see a news story discussing the possible improper restraint of a child in a public school.

These incidences often either traumatize the child and can be so severe they result in the death of a child.

Did you catch what I did in that last sentence?

Each word is hyperlinked to a story related to restraint and seclusion. I just spent a moment researching the topic of restraint and seclusion, and I have to say, the number of news stories out there are appalling!

Many states have some law concerning seclusion and restraint policy for special education children.  Make sure you know your state’s law, and school district’s policy! Restraint and seclusion should ONLY be used as a LAST resort. You can likely find your state’s restraint law by googling “[your state] restraint and seclusion law.” To find your local school district’s policy, try “[name of school district] restraint and seclusion,” or call your local school district and ask where you can find their policy.

BCBA working with child

If we understand that ALL behavior is communication, then what are these children telling us? It is a sad fact that many schools spend little to no time contemplating this topic. Why, though? Perhaps they are understaffed, or inadequately trained to be certified as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). But, even if they are certified, it is not a guarantee they will generate a good report. Thank goodness for the ability to ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) if you are unhappy with the school’s evaluation!

So, what even is a “No Consent” letter?

A “No Consent” letter is a letter you send to your local school district saying you do not want your child restrained or secluded. A sample letter is linked here.



(Name of Special Education Director)
(Name of School District)
(Address of School)

Re: child’s name and birth date (DOB 8-11-75)

Dear (Name of Special Education Director):

My child, child’s name, is a ________ grade student at ______ school. [Insert child’s name] has [whatever their eligibility for special education like Autism, ADHD, etc] and has been receiving special education services since s/he started school.

We are concerned that [insert child’s name] behavior challenges now are being, or might be, addressed in part through the use of physical management and restraint. I have not authorized, and will not consent to any activity that involves physically or mechanically restraining my child while at school, or going to and from school. Special education law requires the use of functional assessments of behavior (FBA) and positive behavior intervention plans (BIP) to address behavior challenges. If the school feels [insert child’s name] behavior is such that physical management or restraints are being considered or used, it is obvious to me that we need to follow the law, do the FBA, and develop a positive BIP.

I am sure you are aware of the number of news reports in recent years highlighting the death of children with [special education eligibility or medical diagnosis that is most relevant to behavior] during, or after, having been physically managed or restrained. Given that special education law requires the development of behavior plans, and given the known risks to children – and to [insert child’s name] – of the use of restraint, I need to be clear that I will weigh all legal options if restraint activities against [insert child’s name] are not terminated immediately. (Don’t make this threat to the school unless you are ready to hire an attorney! Otherwise I would say ‘I will be weighing my response to the school district carefully.’)

You may consider this letter a request to convene a behavior support team meeting to discuss [insert child’s name] behavior and possible approaches to address his/her particular needs. You also may consider this letter my request, and consent, for the administration of a functional assessment of behavior across environments and across time, provided that I am informed in advance that the functional assessment of behavior is going to be conducted, and I am permitted to participate in the development and implementation of the assessment.

I want to work with you and with [insert child’s name] teachers and professionals at _____ school to be sure that [insert child’s name] learns to develop positive behavioral skills in an environment that is safe for him/her, for his/her peers, and for school personnel. I am certain that you also share my concern for student safety where physical intervention has the potential to result in the student’s death. I, like you, want my child’s school to be a safe and secure environment where all students can learn. I want to work with you to help create that environment for [insert child’s name].


(Your name)
(Your address)
(Your telephone number)

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) announced the funding of nine new centers and projects in October 2017 including the IRIS center. A great segway into our next topic. “What is IRIS?”

Vanderbilt University received an award for its IRIS center, which offers a wide variety of resources on evidence-based practices and programs, including instructional modules and research summaries primarily designed for use by college and university faculty, professional development providers, and practicing educators.

The IRIS center is a great resource for parents too. One of particular interest is their high leverage practices page, of which an excerpt from that page can be read below:

High leverage practices (HLPs) are intended to provide those who work in school districts, those who provide professional development for teachers of students with disabilities with a clear vision of effective teaching for these students. Administrators and principals… can use these HLPs to select experiences where evidence shows that skillfulness in using practices makes a difference for student success. The HLPs provide families with clarity about effective practices that can improve educational outcomes for their children.”

This page has terrific information under the Social/Emotional/Behavioral tab that contains 26 learning modules under this tab. Some modules include:

Addressing Disruptive and Non-compliant Behaviors (Part 1): Understanding the Acting-Out Cycle,

Defining Behavior, Measuring Behavior,

Functional Behavioral Assessment: Identifying the Reasons for Problem Behavior and Developing a Behavior Plan.

These are all great modules for both parents and school staff. By the by, go ahead and check out this archived webinar on OSEP’s “IDEA Behavioral Support and Discipline” guidance that was issued in 2016. This is also another great resource and is definitely worth your time to review and understand the material.

Before we close this off, one last site I would recommend reviewing is Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports.

This site is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s OSEP and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). The Technical Assistance Center on PBIS supports schools, districts, and states to build a systems’ capacity for implementing a multi-tiered approach to social, emotional and behavior support. It is a great site to understand the Response to Intervention (RTI) process concerning behavioral interventions, among other things.

I hope this post has been of help. Please take the time to click on the links in the post to all the reference material. As always you are welcome to join us for more discussion on the use of restrain and/or seclusion at our FB groups, IEP/504 Assistance for parents of public school students from all over the United States.

PASEN also runs a special needs homeschool group, Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids.  I hope to see you there!

Parent Alliance for Students with Exceptional Students (PASEN) is meant purely for educational or medical discussion. It contains information about legal or medical matters; however, it is not professional legal or medical advice and should not be treated as such.

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