Seclusion and Restraint Update January 2021

This new year we celebrate new actions to protect children and youth with disabilities in our schools from harmful restraint and seclusion practices. “Restraint” generally refers to efforts to control behavior or restrict a student’s freedom of movement through mechanical, physical restraint, or pharmacological means. “Seclusion” means the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving.

Concerns about the disproportionate and often traumatizing impact of seclusion and restraint on children with disabilities have been raised for years by national organizations including the National Council on Disability, the National PTA , the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) and Lives in the Balance. Virginia state and local organizations such as the disability Law Center of Virginia and the Fairfax County SEPTA  have also taken strong positions against restraint and seclusion. A December 16, 2016 Dear Colleague Letter on Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities from the US Department of Education laid out clear guidance regarding seclusion and restraint violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and offered resources to states and schools.

In 2020, the Virginia State Board of Education finalized new state Regulations Governing the Use of Seclusion and Restraint in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools in Virginia. As of January 1, 2021, all public school divisions in Virginia choosing to use physical restraint or seclusion must adopt policies and procedures consistent these regulations.

In conjunction with the Virginia Department of Education, Old Dominion University offers a set of five modules to support school personnel, families and others in understanding the new regulations.

Locally, find school division restraint and seclusion policies here:

Alexandria City Public Schools- Supporting Student Behavior: Guidelines for the Emergency Use of Seclusion and Restraint for Students with Disabilities (2013)
Management of Student Behaviors in Emergency Situations (2015)
Documenting Contact with Families Concerning Serious Incidents (2018)

Fairfax County Public Schools- Physical Restraint and Seclusion Policy (2020)

Loudoun County Public Schools- Regulation 5345 Regulation on the Use of Restraint and Seclusion (2019)

Prince William County Schools Regulations- Disruptive Student Behavior – Use of Physical Restraint and Seclusion  (2019)


Find an information sheet from the disability Law Center of Virginia HERE.