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Review of Use of Restrictive Procedures in Minnesota Schools.

Markanda, Sonal.

Project Goals:
The purpose of this project was to assess the statewide implementation of existing Minnesota Laws (Appendix A) regarding the use of seclusion and restraints with special education students. The following information provides insight into compliance with the
current law, barriers and strengths in implementing the law, and will serve to inform future policy. The role of the National Alliance on Mental Alliance (NAMI) Minnesota has been to bring together various organizations and schools, which have a vested interest
in this legislation, to work towards a compromise that is in the best interest of all parties.


  1. Assess compliance with certain aspects of the current legislation.
  2. Acquire demographic and frequency data regarding the use of seclusion and restraints in the state of Minnesota.
  3. Inform future policy by identifying what barriers and strengths currently exist in implementing the law.

The use of seclusion and restraints as an intervention in schools is not federally regulated. The lack of national standardization has resulted in the haphazard implementation of such interventions resulting in the injuries, and even the deaths, of numerous students. National attention was garnered after an initial report in 1998, published by the Hartford Courant, cited the dangers of seclusion and restraints. Reports followed from several organizations and these reports advised the Children’s Health Act of 2000 and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’s recommendations. Given the level of emotional and physical stress associated with experiencing and witnessing the use of seclusion and restraints, utilization of such interventions should occur in the rarest of circumstances.

Those who oppose the regulation of seclusion and restraints cite cumbersome paperwork associated with documenting an incident, unclear wording of legislation (i.e., what constitutes an emergency), and time/financial constraints in training staff members district-wide. Opponents also note an alleged increase in safety risks for school staff and other students when dealing with psychiatric and emotional emergencies. To what extent and how consistently de-escalation techniques work, as well as the limits surrounding such methods, are questioned. Disagreement about whether seclusion and restraints should be part of a student’s safety plan/IEP also contributes to the lack of clarity of when, or if, restraints should be used. A few cite their effectiveness despite the lack of any studies demonstrating this.

In seeking to promote a healthier school climate, the use of seclusion and restraints appears to be counter-intuitive at times. It has been shown that the use of seclusion and restraints tend to have the opposite effect of calming down a student, and in fact, initiates the fight-and-flight response. Decreasing the use of seclusion and restraints is also in-line with implementing evidenced based treatments in school settings and utilizing school-linked mental health services. Decreasing or eliminating the use of seclusion and restraints tends to result in more time spent on instruction, less time spent away from the classroom, and fewer legal costs.

Many of the students placed in seclusion and restraints display decreased emotional and behavioral well-being, suggesting the need for continuous training of staff who interact with students on a daily basis as to de-escalate potentially problematic behaviors. However, even the best of teachers argue that de-escalation techniques are not always viable in ameliorating emergency situations. Promoting and integrating the use of Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports (PBIS) within schools is crucial; schools that tend to use PBIS have shown an overall decrease in the use of seclusion and restraints.

Publication date: 
Prepared for National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota with funding from a Communiversity Personnel Grant from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), University of Minnesota.
25 pp.
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