Family Resource on Restraints and Isolation in Special Education

Dec 22, 2020 | Behavior, Blog, Family Engagement


If you’ve ever wondered about how the law defines the use of restraints and isolation in relation to the Special Education Behavior Supports Act, we’re here to help.

Physical Holding Restraint is the use of body contact by school personnel with a student to restrict freedom of movement or normal access to the student’s body.


Isolation or seclusion is the confinement of a student alone in a room with or without a door. The student is unable to leave the area. 


An emergency is a situation where a student’s behavior is a threat to the physical safety of the student or others around them.


When is Physical Holding Restraint allowable? Restraint and isolation may be used in an emergency situation only. An emergency situation is defined as a situation in which “a child’s behavior poses a threat to harm themselves or others.”

  • Example of an emergency situation: The student is repeatedly punching a glass window with the intent to punch through the glass.  
  • Example of a non-emergency situation: The student lifts a computer and throws it on the floor. 

What is the policy on notifying parents after a restraint or isolation incident?

If school personnel impose restraints or isolations in an emergency situation, the student’s parent or guardian shall be told orally, or by written or printed communication, the same day the isolation or restraint was used. If a parent is told orally, they should still be given a copy of the written restraint/isolation form.

Can restraint and/or isolation be written into the IEP on a student’s BIP?

Yes, the IEP team can discuss to write restraint and/or isolation into a student’s BIP. It is important to remember that restraint and isolation are for emergency situations only and are not instructional strategies.

Special Education Behavior Supports Act

Special Education Behavior Supports Act (SEBSA) outlines tasks for the school system, schools, IEP teams, and how to address behavior with students with disabilities or students not receiving special education services. It lays out preventative approaches to prevent the behavior and how to decrease behavior. It outlines the training issues that school systems may incorporate. 

Facts You Need to Know:

·       If a school is in an emergency situation the school will contact the trained personnel that is trained in isolation and restraint. After the intervention, parents or guardians should be notified. 

·       If the IEP plan does not provide any use of isolation or restraint and the school personnel has to use isolation or restraint, the IEP team must meet within 10 days following the isolation or restraint. 

·       The school personnel should tell the principal about the incident of restraint or isolation. Another school personnel should be an observer and should monitor the safety of all involved. 

If you have any questions or concerns about this topic, please reach out to