The following are selected references related to the use of restraint and seclusion. This is not intended as comprehensive listing of resources. If you have a resource to suggest please contact us.

Historical Perspective

School is Not Supposed to Hurt: Investigative Report on Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools (2009).

Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers (2009).

School is Not Supposed to Hurt Update on Progress in 2009 to Prevent and Reduce Restraint and Seclusion in Schools (2010).

Unsafe in The Schoolhouse: Abuse of Children with Disabilities. “No child should be subject to abuse in the guise of education. Every child’s dignity and human rights must be respected. Abusive interventions are neither educational nor effective. They are dangerous and unjust. Their victims suffer physical harm, psychological injury, and have died.”

The following was contained In a February 25, 2019 letter from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) submitted for consideration at the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education’s hearing on “Classrooms in Crisis: Examining the Inappropriate Use of Seclusion and Restraint Practices.”

The practice of restraining and secluding schoolchildren is not new and has been implicated in countless and often ongoing cases of severe, pervasive, and traumatic abuse across the country. Despite numerous studies, investigations, and governmental hearings at the state and federal level, too many of our schoolchildren continue to be subjected to actions by teachers, administrators, and other school personnel that threaten their health and safety. Over the years, we have become aware of the horrifying stories that pierced the public’s consciousness—stories of children being locked in closets, arms bound in handcuffs behind their back or even suffocating to death from inappropriate use of force. Even when these techniques are used in less dramatic fashion, children often experience lifelong trauma. And the alarming truth is that most incidents of restraint and seclusion occur in the shadows, with impunity, and far from public or even parental view. Indeed, a large percentage of school districts reported no data on students being subject to restraint and seclusion—despite parent reports of horrific abuses

The effects include substantial and disproportionate physical and emotional injuries and disruptive exclusions from the educational process. The use of unnecessary restraint and seclusion by federally funded schools—either directly or through contractual arrangements with private special education schools—has no pedagogical basis, discriminates against students with disabilities, and impairs the educational objectives of public schools with respect to children with disabilities. Often, restraint and seclusion are carried out because of inadequate teacher training, a desire to punish a student on the part of school personnel, or bias against students with disabilities, students of color or those students who fall into both categories. This is not how we should treat our children. They deserve better.

Department of Education Documents

Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document (2012) This document describes 15 principles for States, school districts, schools, parents, and other stakeholders to consider when developing or revising policies and procedures on the use of restraint and seclusion. These principles stress that every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and seclusion and that any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child’s rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse.

Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline (2014)

Dear Colleague Letter on Preventing Racial Discrimination in Special Education (2016) This document was developed to help ensure that all students, regardless of race, color, or national origin, have equitable access to high-quality general and special education instruction. The letter provides a brief legal summary of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and explains, through analysis and illustrative examples, the Title VI requirement that students of all races, colors, and national origins have:

  • equitable access to general education interventions and to a timely referral for an evaluation for disability and special education and/or related aids and services under the IDEA or Section 504; and
  • equitable treatment in the evaluation process, in the quality of special education services and supports they receive, and in the degree of restrictiveness of their educational environment.

A fact sheet on Preventing Racial Discrimination in Special Education was released at the same time.

Dear Colleague Letter about Restraint and Seclusion for Students with Disabilities. (2016) This document was developed to address concerns arising from the disproportionate rate of seclusion and restraint of students with disabilities. The document includes a series of questions and answers intended to help clarify the law and the process required to assure that children are not penalized for behaviors that are a manifestation of their disability. A fact sheet about Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities was released at the same time.

Disability Advocacy Groups to DeVos: Our Children Must Be Included in School Safety Debate (2018). Letter sent in response to disability groups being excluded from critical school safety and climate summit.

Civil and Human Rights

In October 2019, the Civil Rights Principles for Safe, Healthy and Inclusive School Climates was published. This document, signed by over 200 organizations includes the following 8 principles:

Principle 1. Ensure rights of students.
Principle 2. Encourage schools to implement comprehensive and supportive discipline practices.
Principle 3. Address childhood trauma
Principle 4. Enhance protections against harassment and discrimination schools.
Principle 5. Ensure accountability through accurate and comprehensive data collection
Principle 6. Invest in school infrastructures that support positive school climates
Principle 7. Eliminate school- based law enforcement
Principle 8. Eliminate threats to students’ health and safety (this includes corporal punishment, restraints, seclusion)

Applying International Human Rights Standards to the Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities (2012)

Impact of Restraint and Seclusion on Children/Adolescent (and others!)

Interview with Ron Garrison on Restraint and Seclusion. Garrison, a retired educator a master’s degree in school safety worked as a special educator early in his career. He later worked for an American federal government organization that focused on institutional safety and security before moving into private practice. Garrison has rendered expert legal opinions in eighty-five lawsuits involving restraint and seclusion throughout the United States. According to Garrison,

“I believe that using restraint and seclusion is a form of torture.”

Ron Garrison

Dangerous Use of Seclusion and Restraints in Schools Remains Widespread and Difficult to Remedy: A Review of Ten Cases (2014)

Children should be protected from unreasonable restraints, seclusion and searches, ABA says (2020)

Unsafe in The Schoolhouse: Abuse of Children with Disabilities.

“No child should be subject to abuse in the guise of education. Every child’s dignity and human rights must be respected. Abusive interventions are neither educational nor effective. They are dangerous and unjust. Their victims suffer physical harm, psychological injury, and have died.”

The Quiet Rooms. ProPublica. Illinois. (2019)

Students Traumatized in Special Education Across America, Seclusion, Restraint, and Aversives: Scream Rooms…when will America say enough is enough?

Laws, Regulations, Policies

There are no federal laws at this time governing restraint and seclusion in schools.

State Policies on School Discipline: Education Commission of the States. 2018.

How Safe is the Schoolhouse? (2019)

Keeping All Students Safe Act (2020) “The Keeping All Students Safe Act would make it illegal for any school receiving federal taxpayer money to seclude children and would ban dangerous restraint practices that restrict children’s breathing, such as prone or supine restraint. The bill would also prohibit schools from physically restraining children, except when necessary to protect students and staff. The bill would better equip school personnel with the training they need to address school-expected behavior with evidence-based proactive strategies, require states to monitor the law’s implementation, and increase transparency and oversight to prevent future abuse of students.”


2015–16 Civil Rights Data Collection: School Climate and Safety. (2018)

2017-18 Civil Rights Data Collection: The Use Of Restraint And Seclusion On Children With Disabilities in K-12 Schools (2020)


Evaluation of a Program Model for Minimizing Restraint and Seclusion (2018)

First Person Accounts

The Kids We Lose. Documentary produced by Lone Wolf Media and Lives in the Balance. (2016).

Restraint and Seclusion: Hear our Stories. (2013).

Seclusion Changed Me Forever: How I Went From Being Bad to Being an Extremist (2020)

In the News

Children Are Routinely Isolated in Some Fairfax County Schools. The District Didn’t Report It. WAMU. March 2019. (Virginia).

Revealed: New Mexico schools secretly restraining and secluding students. The Guardian. October 2019.

Seclusion and Restraint Series. Virginia Public Media. December 2019. (Virginia).

The Quiet Rooms. ProPublica. Illinois. (2019)

Death from Restraint

Family Friend Reveals More Details about the Death of Max Benson (Died 2018)

The next three reports show the actual restraint that killed Cornelius Frederick. The videos are extremely disturbing. Anyone who authorizes or supervises or performs restraints should be aware that what happened in Kalamazoo can happen anywhere, despite training for staff.

Dangerous Restraints Were Routine at This Youth Home. Then a Black Teen Died. (2020)

Deadly Restraints Are Being Used on Children at Youth Homes and Schools (2020)

Video shows fatal restraint of Cornelius Frederick, 16, in Michigan foster facility. (2020)

Better Ways of Working with Kids

As Ron Garrison states…

“When many educators, support workers, or family members are in a situation where an individual has become aggressive, self-injurious, or even what is sometimes called noncompliant, they feel like they need to control the situation. They don’t know what to do, so they resort to coercive tactics like restraint and seclusion. Although this seems to solve the problem in the short term, in the long term, it actually makes the problem far worse.”

Ron Garrison

Research in the past 30 years in the areas of brain development and function, trauma and resilience, attachment and human development provides a deeper understanding of why troublesome behaviors occur, as well as effective ways of supporting students and teachers so that children thrive and the (perceived) need for restraint and seclusion is eliminated.

The research, as well as the experience of successful schools point to the following as critical components for positive school climate and a sense of safety for each individual child: recognition of the critical importance of relationships (and practices that foster connection with each child each day); understanding of the structure and functioning of the brain, including unconscious detection of threat or safety, state dependent functioning, regulation, co-regulation and self-regulation, stress, distress and trauma, including the impact of trauma on brain structure and function; a trauma informed mindset and approach; inclusion; respect for and collaboration with each child; understanding of the role of the adults in preventing, de-escalating and escalating troublesome situations; elimination of harmful exclusionary disciplinary practices (corporal punishment, restraint, seclusion, suspension); connection with students rather than a demand for compliance; a deep understanding of the causes of behavior; practices that support internal motivation, cooperation, and joy of learning rather than use of rewards and awards; use of restorative practices; support for teachers; self-reflective practices; respect for and collaboration with parents; and true prevention practices.

Recommended resources include:

Changing the view (and judgment) about children who struggle

Brain Development and Functioning



Recognizing, Addressing and Eliminating Racism and White Supremacy Culture in Schools

Successful School Practices

Schools That Have Changed Their School Climate and Disciplinary Approach:

For Parents:

Leaders, Books and Websites

Dr. Bruce Perry

The five videos developed with PBS provide an excellent basis for understanding how the brain works, the impact of trauma, and brain aligned approaches for teachers and classrooms

Dr. Stephen Porges

The Polyvagal Theory, Neuroception, the Safe and Sound Protocol.

Dr. Mona Delahooke

Mona Delahooke, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 30 years of experience caring for children and their families. She is a senior faculty member of the Profectum Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting families of neurodiverse children, adolescents and adults. She is a trainer for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.

  • Books: Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children’s Behavioral Challenges (2019)
  • Website:

Dr. Lori Desautels

Dr. Lori Desautels has been an Assistant Professor at Butler University since 2016 where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Education.  Lori was also an Assistant Professor at Marian University in Indianapolis for eight years where she founded the Educational Neuroscience Symposium.  Currently, the Symposium is in its eighth year, and now sponsored by Butler University College of Education.  Through these conferences and symposiums, educators, parents, and the community learn to implement the tools to help our students be successful and feel a sense of purpose and connection as they walk into their classrooms.  Because of her work, Lori has been able to attract the foremost experts in the fields of educational neuroscience, trauma and adversity, which significantly grow the conference each year. 

Dr. Ross Greene

Founding Director of Lives in the Balance, served on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years, and is now adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech and adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia.

Dan Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

  • Books: The Whole Brain Child, No Drama Discipline, The Yes Brain, The Power of Showing Up

Dr. Stuart Shanker

Dr. Stuart Shanker (D.Phil) is a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Psychology and the CEO of The MEHRIT Centre, Ltd.. His latest books “Reframed: Self-Reg for a Just Society” (University of Toronto Press 2020) and “Self-Reg Schools: A Handbook for Educators” (Pearson 2019) co-authored with Susan Hopkins is a follow-up to “Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation” (Pearson 2012). His book, “Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage With Life” (2016), still garners enthusiastic reviews and media attention throughout North America and has been published in the UK, the US, Poland, Germany, China, South Korea, The Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.

  • Books: Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life (2017) and Reframed (2020)
  • Website:

Kristie Pretti-Frontczak

Kristie is an author, speaker, and educational consultant, she is a passionate believer in children’s right to learn through play, inclusive classrooms, and transformative professional development that supports teachers’ wholeness.

Laura Markham

Dr. Laura Markham founded Aha! Parenting to support parents and to create a more peaceful home — and happy, responsible, considerate kids.

Lori Petro

Lori Petro is the founder of Teach Through Love, the creator of the Conscious Communication Cards, and host of the popular YouTube series, Teachable Moments. She has been inspiring and educating parents, teachers, and other professionals with her talks, online courses, and digital content since 2005. Lori holds a BS in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and a certification in trauma-informed parent education. She founded Teach Through Love after her own self-healing journey, as a vehicle to help repair fractured family relationships by providing parents with a new framework for communicating with kids.

Autism Educational Websites by Autistic Self-Advocates


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