RESTRAINT & SECLUSION IN WISCONSIN
Sometimes, children might find themselves completely unable to control their feelings or actions. Some children with special needs, including those with autism spectrum disorders, lack an ability to control themselves when they become extremely emotionally charged, which may create circumstances whereby they may put themselves or others in danger of injury. This behavior has sometimes been described as ‘severe meltdown’ and can be triggered by anything from not feeling well to extreme resistance to a transition between activities.
In the past, school staff used whatever means they felt best to protect the student and themselves from possible injury. Some might have used a secluded, locked, quiet room, or they might hold the child down until they were able to regain control of themselves.
Unfortunately, a few national cases were documented where well-intended staff handled things inappropriately, resulting in injury.
In 2012, Wisconsin Act 125 went into effect which guides the use of seclusion and physical restraint in public schools for all students, including those with special needs. The legislation is intended to protect students from potentially harmful practices and provide methods for staff to keep themselves safe as well.
The law clearly outlines when restraint may be used, and the protocol and methods for its use. The legislation prohibits high-risk positions (holding or applying pressure to the head, chest or neck), requires training on the proper use of restraint (including methods for de-escalation), and provides alternatives to the use of restraint and seclusion.
Law enforcement officers working in the school are not impacted by Act 25, as they have their own training and protocols for crisis situations.
Act 25 also implements reporting requirements – to parents and to the school board (board members are not provided student-specific data, only generalized numbers of occurrences).
If there is a first-time incident where seclusion or restraint is needed for a student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the IEP Team must meet as soon as possible to review behavior plans and seek solutions to prevent another occurrence.