Last Updated on July 27, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
In California public schools, “Hands off!” should be the motto for school staff. There are so many minefields involving interaction between staff and students that this is the best policy. One issue which may come up with an unruly child, or a student who the staff cannot handle competently, is the use of restraint and seclusion- e.g. staff putting hands on a child to stop their movement or control them. This subject is much broader than a single blog, but one basic for parents to know is that school staff cannot impose restraints or seclusion as punishment, for any student.
Important Law Changed Everything in California
In 2019, significant legislation went into effect (see California Education Codes 49005-49006.4) regarding restraints and seclusion and what is allowed.
For now, the one basic I want to impart to parents is the fact that restraint and seclusion cannot be used on students just because school staff feel like it (e.g. because Joe mouthed off). Rather, restraint and seclusion are reserved only for school or student situations in which a serious danger is present.
“A pupil has the right to be free from the use of seclusion and behavioral restraints of any form imposed as a means of coercion, discipline, convenience, or retaliation by staff. This right includes, but is not limited to, the right to be free from the use of a drug administered to the pupil in order to control the pupil’s behavior or to restrict the pupil’s freedom of movement, if that drug is not a standard treatment for the pupil’s medical or psychiatric condition.” [emphasis added]
School Emergency May Permit Restraints or Seclusion
Restraints or seclusion (within certain limits) are NOT prohibited in emergency situations or when there is a “clear and present danger of serious physical harm to the pupil or others that cannot be immediately prevented by a response that is less restrictive.” [Ed §49005.4]
Some “Normal” School Situations Not Considered Improper
A police or security guard’s action to protect public safety, a student timeout that is part of a school program in a non-locked setting, an escort where a student is being touched on their arm, etc. for direction, and possibly other actions depending on the circumstances, are not included in the prohibition.
Yet, if a student is mouthing off and is taken to the ground when they are not a physical threat, that restraint would not be appropriate. Locking a student in a room when they have not acted in a dangerous manner would also be prohibited.
Illegal Restraint and Seclusion DO Happen
Some parents reading this may believe these things don’t happen at schools. Unfortunately they would be wrong.
Students are manhandled and restrained improperly on a daily basis in California schools. It is up to parents to take notice, complain, and address inappropriate restraint and isolation at school, using the law as their weapon, to defeat such harmful practices.
Student lawyer and advocate for parents Michelle Ball assists families in preventing inappropriate school discipline, suspension, expulsion and improper student treatment. Michelle Ball, attorney for kids, can approach issues anywhere in California, including in San Bernardino, Santa Cruz, Elk Grove, Napa, Carmichael, Rocklin, Petaluma and other cities.