On January 17, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education announced it will launch an initiative aimed at addressing the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in schools.  The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) will oversee the initiative.

According to the Department of Education, the goal of the initiative is to protect students with disabilities by providing technical assistance and support to schools, districts, and state education agencies while simultaneously strengthening enforcement activities. Specifically, the initiative will include components to help local school districts understand how federal law applies to the use of restraint and seclusion. It will also support local school districts and their schools in seeking resources and information on the appropriate use of interventions and supports to address the behavioral needs of students with disabilities.

The initiative will include the following three components: (1) compliance reviews; (2) civil rights data collection; and (3) support for recipients.

With respect to compliance reviews, the initiative will require OCR’s 12 regional offices to conduct compliance reviews on schools’ use of restraint and seclusion on children with disabilities. These reviews will focus on the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion, as well as the effect of such inappropriate uses on the school’s obligation to provide a free appropriate public education for disabled children.

The civil rights data collection element will entail the OCR conducting data quality reviews. Specifically, OCR will work directly with school districts to review and improve data submitted with respect to the use of restraint and seclusion. OCR will also provide technical assistance to school districts to ensure that they are collecting and reporting accurate data.

Finally, support for recipients will entail OCR providing technical assistance to school districts on the legal requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, especially as it relates to the use of restraint and seclusion on disabled students.  In this capacity, OCR will partner with OSERS to provide joint technical assistance to those school districts in understanding how Section 504, Title II, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act impact the development and implementation of policies on the use of restraint and seclusion.

In addition, OSERS will support certain districts identified by OCR with access to appropriate technical assistance and support; it will help ensure that schools have access to technical assistance and resources to establish or enhance school environments with the implementation of proper interventions and supports. Furthermore, OSERS will consider how current investments in education may be utilized to provide support and training to school districts. In providing this support, OSERS and OCR will jointly plan and conduct webinars for interested parties that will address the use of appropriate interventions and supports for all students.