Most school districts have adopted policies and student codes of conduct which allow employees to use physical restraint under certain circumstances, such as to protect a student from physical injury or to control an irrational student. When dealing with the use of restraint or force with special education students, educators need to be aware of the most recent developments in this area. The Texas Administrative Code Section 89.1053 addresses procedures for use of physical force and restraint with SPED students. Restraint is defined as” the use of physical force or a mechanical device to restrict the free movement of all or a portion of the student’s body.” The law directs that restraint is to be used in only emergency situations. Emergency is defined as situations in “which a student’s behavior poses a threat of imminent serious physical harm to the student or others or imminent, serious property destruction.”
The restraint should use a “reasonable” amount of force to diffuse the emergency. What is “reasonable?” It is safe to say a reasonable amount would be the least amount of force necessary. Once the emergency no longer exists, then the restraint should be discontinued.
Each district is to establish a core group of personnel to train in the use of restraint. If an individual who has not been trained performs an emergency restraint, the district is required to provide training to that individual within 30 school days following the use of restraint.
The Administrative Code also requires that campus administration or designee be notified verbally, or in writing regarding the use of the restraint on the day the restraint is utilized. On the day the restraint is utilized, a good faith effort must be made to verbally notify the parent(s) regarding the use of restraint. Written notification of the use of restraint must be placed in the mail or otherwise provided to the parent within one school day of the use of restraint.
Keeping the above information in mind, the overarching policy as stated when using restraint, force, time out or any other behavior management technique is that it “must be implemented in such a way as to protect the health and safety of the student and others. No discipline management techniques may be calculated to inflict injury, cause harm, demean, or deprive the student of basic human necessities.”
A TA is terminated for physically restraining a student by grabbing and twisting an 11 year old special education student’s arm behind his back after the student took another student’s work out of the folder and ripped it. The student’s arm was broken in the restraint. Another TA attempted to verbally redirect the student without success.
The Commissioner of Education determined that at the point the TA initiated the restraint, the student had already completed his action. The student was not in imminent danger of harming either himself, others nor was there a significant danger to property. The commissioner determined that the TA’s actions were not necessary and were disproportionate and unnecessarily degrading. Lewis v. Houston Independent School District, Docket No. 016-R10-1107