Restraint, seclusion, and corporal punishment are far too common when responding to disability and trauma-related behaviors within school settings. A “No Consent” letter is a written letter that states you, as a parent or guardian, do not consent to the school’s use of restraint, seclusion, and corporal punishment in response to your child’s behavior.
Nicole Tuchinda, J.D., MD, LLM, wrote these letters for the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint. Nicole is a special education attorney, Assistant Professor, and Director of the Health Law Program at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. She writes about the need to make education trauma-informed and attachment-driven, and she co-founded a medical-legal partnership clinic at Georgetown University Law Center (GULC). She has a Master of Laws (LL.M.) from GULC and the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, an M.D. from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School.
We are providing three versions of the letter that you can download.
- A general no consent letter (Download)
- A letter that additionally requests evaluation for eligibility for special education (Download)
- A letter for a child who already has an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) that might need a functional behavioral assessment (Download)
You must understand that these letters are intended to communicate your desire that restraint, seclusion, and corporal punishment not be used on your child. However, the letter might not stop school staff from using restraint, seclusion, or corporal punishment if they are allowed by state law. The letters communicate your intent but do not legally prevent schools from using the practices.
These letters also communicate you want to work with your child’s team for the development and implementation of appropriate supports and accommodations for your child. This is a proactive step to support a safe and secure school environment for your child.
Your school may respond to your letter and state that they are unable to follow your “no consent” letter due to school/district policies. It would be best if you asked that the policies be shared with you in writing. You should request that the “no consent” letter be included in your child’s educational records. If your student has an IEP, ask that something be added to the parent input section of the IEP. Keep records of your communication with the school in this regard. Consistently communicate your “no consent” position.
Below is the general no consent letter.
Dear Representatives of __________________ School,
I write to respectfully request that school staff, contractors, and all employees working with school staff, including school resource officers and police officers, avoid using corporal punishment, seclusion, and restraint with my child, ______________________________ , (Date of Birth MM/DD/YYYY).
The reason for my request is that corporal punishment, seclusion, and restraint would likely be traumatic for my child, as it has been found to be traumatic for many children. Studies show that these practices lead to serious physical and emotional harm to children, including physical injuries; mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and suicidality; school dropout; academic failure; disability; and occasionally death. These interventions are contraindicated for children with past trauma and those with medical conditions that impact the heart or breathing. Seclusion or isolation is contraindicated for students who require constant monitoring, students with suicidal ideation, and students who may engage in self-injurious behavior. School corporal punishment, seclusion, and restraint have been identified as a form of community violence, and they are adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that can lead to long-term health problems.
Moreover, studies indicate that corporal punishment, seclusion, and restraint usually worsen a child’s behavior, not improve it. Non-violent, safe alternatives can always be used instead. Thus, I do not consent to the use of corporal punishment, seclusion, or restraint upon my child.
If you are concerned about my child’s behavior or other performance at school, please talk with me about how we can work constructively together to support them and their success and keep them in school. I am interested in evidence-based approaches to supporting my child’s success.
You can reach me at (xxx) xxx-xxxx or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this important matter.