California’s protection & advocacy system

For legal assistance call 800-776-5746. For all other purposes call 916-504-5800 in Northern CA

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Restraint and seclusion - a growing problem in California schools

The outdated practices of secluding or restraining children as punishment are used far too often in California schools. There were more than 22,000 cases in 2012 – the last year data was reported. Most incidents involved students with disabilities who sometimes show frustration when they can’t communicate. To calm or control them, school staff isolate them alone in small rooms, a practice known as seclusion. Students also are  restrained by pinning them face down on the floor. Restraint and seclusion severely traumatize a child and may cause death. There are better ways to handle behavior, including positive reinforcements instead of disciplinary ones.

Josh's story ....

When Josh was about six years old, stressful situations in school would cause him to become aggressive or hurt himself. Staff sat on top of him and held him face down on the ground.  This happened on a fairly regular basis. He often came home with bruises on his wrists and back where school aides were tightly holding him. His parents became alarmed and realized staff didn’t know how to handle these behavioral situations without hurting their son. They moved him to another school where personnel were trained to control Josh’s agitation, using positive behavioral supports instead of restraint and seclusion. Today the 18-year-old is calm and gentle mannered.  He travels around the globe with his family and, when he is home, enjoys going places within his community with his personal care attendant, like the library, the YMCA and amusement parks.        

Your donation can make a difference:

- Bring these practices to light by telling the stories of children subjected to restraint and seclusion.

- Educate parents, guardians and the public about the hidden and unrestricted use of restraint and seclusion. 

- Educate school staff and other professionals about the dangers of seclusion and restraint and how to avoid their use.  

- Build a coalition of interested parents, professionals and organizations to change laws and policies and create safe school environments for all of our children.

- Reform California law to limit and eventually eliminate these practices.  

Additional resources