top of page

California: New restraint law for schools; used on "students with special needs"

Dec 23, 2018, Sacramento Bee: California teachers can pin students face down. Does the danger outweigh the benefit? …But prone restraints are regularly used in California schools, often on students with special needs such as those on the autism spectrum — and at a higher rate on black students, an analysis of federal data by The Sacramento Bee found. Next month, California state regulations on the use of prone restraints on students will change, limiting them to emergency situations. Current law allows them to be used too often as punishments or as a behavior modifier on hard-to-handle kids, critics said. Even with the new law, disability rights advocates and some parents worry that the intensely physical interventions will continue to be used often, and present the possibility of harm to kids. Some would like to see them banned in schools altogether. The controversy over prone restraints drew attention last month when a thirteen-year-old boy with autism, Max Benson, died after being held in the position at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills. … Current California law permits use of restraint in non-emergencies and only applies to students in special education…. More than 122,000 students— or one percent of the nation’s student population — were physically restrained or secluded at school in 2015-2016, according to the U.S. Department of Education. … About 76 percent of students physically or mechanically restrained at California schools in 2015-16 were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Students served under the act represented about 10 percent of California’s student enrollment. Black students were particularly likely to be restrained at school. They represented about 8 percent of California students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but about 19 percent of students served under the act who were restrained at school.

… The number of instances of restraint or seclusion logged statewide — about 4,700 in 2015-16 — is far lower than the number of behavioral emergency reports filed in 2011-12, the last year when the California Department of Education was required to collect such data statewide. New law, no ban The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, takes protections further but does not forbid the use of prone restraints. Outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill, AB 2657, that will prohibit the use of restraint or seclusion on any student in California except when the student’s behavior is identified as an imminent danger to him or herself or to others…. Lee said that if a school is consistently using restraints as an intervention, as a substitute for a student’s individualized plan, then that is a violation of a child’s rights. Lee and others also said teachers and staff need more training in how to properly do restraint holds. Current law does not mandate that school staff be certified in how to do the holds safely prior to using them, according to the DOE, and the new law makes no mention of training.


bottom of page