Student behavior management and update on restraint and seclusion rules

Safely and effectively managing student behavior in class can be a challenge.

A recently-adopted rule regarding the use of restraint or seclusion in schools (Department of Education Rule Chapter 33) limits the use of restraint or seclusion to manage behavior to situations in which the health or safety of a student or others is at risk, and other less intrusive methods have failed to alleviate the risk or have been deemed inappropriate.

The purpose of this dispatch is to provide access to resources summarizing the rule and describing methods of managing student behavior without the use of restraint or seclusion, and to help clarify the difference between an escort and a physical restraint.

Resources: Prevention; Chapter 33 Requirement Summary

The Maine DOE has worked with a small group of stakeholders to develop resources for all staff to help them become familiar with the requirements of Rule Chapter 33 and to assist in understanding student behavior challenges so that they can de-escalate situations that might otherwise result in a restraint or seclusion.

The first two resource documents are now available on the Restraint and Seclusion page of the DOE website:  Emergency Prevention and De-escalation Strategies and Chapter 33 Timelines and Requirements.  Stephanie Galeucia, the Department’s Student Assistance Coordinator, will continue to work with stakeholders, with a goal of developing a “best practices” guide on student behavior management.

Clarification regarding two-person escorts

The Department received a complaint this year regarding a school’s use of a two-person escort, a technique taught in at least one approved restraint and seclusion training program for school staff. The complaint alleged that the use of the two-person escort actually constituted a “restraint” and should have been reported as such, despite the fact that the training program called it an escort.

If an action constitutes a physical restraint, the rule requires staff to notify administrators and parents, fill out an incident report, and conduct a debriefing of the incident with the student.  The rule excludes a “physical escort” from the definition of physical restraint, so none of those requirements apply in the event of a physical escort.

The Department investigated the use of the two-person escort in the specific case brought to our attention, and determined in that case that it was not a restraint.  However, we want to take this opportunity to clarify the difference between an escort and a restraint, and to remind staff that the name given to a technique by a training program doesn’t determine which category it falls into.

“Physical escort” is defined in the rule as:

“The temporary touching or holding for the purpose of inducing a student to walk to another location, including assisting the student to the student’s feet in order to be escorted.”

A “physical restraint” is:

“An intervention that restricts a student’s freedom of movement or normal access to his or her body, and includes physically moving a student who has not moved voluntarily.”  The definition excludes certain types of interventions such as physical escort.

It may be difficult to determine whether an action is “inducing a student to walk to another location” (escort) or is “physically moving a student who has not moved voluntarily” (restraint).

Guidance in making this determination is found in the Question and Answer section of the Department’s Restraint and Seclusion web pages available here. Question PR-15 describes a situation in which a staff member is escorting a student, but the student is pulling away from the staff person. The question is whether this pulling away turns the escort into a restraint.  The guidance provided in that Q and A is that “when pulling away becomes more that merely a token gesture – when it becomes a struggle against the movement – the activity crosses the line to become restraint.” Question PR-19 provides another example. While this still requires a judgment about the extent of the student’s resistance, it does provide some guidance in making the determination.

This also explains why a method described by a training program as an “escort” may turn out in a particular instance to be a “restraint” as defined in Rule Chapter 33.

For additional resources on Rule Chapter 33 and student behavior management, please visit the Department’s Restraint and Seclusion web page or contact the DOE’s Student Assistance Coordinator, Stephanie Galeucia at stephanie.galeucia@maine.gov or 207-624-6685.