Restraint & Seclusion in APS: What Parents Need to Know

Oct 2, 2021 | Restraint & Seclusion

Arlington Public Schools just adopted a new policy and procedures governing Restraint and Seclusion. Here’s a primer on what parents need to know.

Q: What is Restraint?
A: There are three kinds of Restraint:
(1) Physical Restraint: a personal restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move freely.
(2) Mechanical Restraint: the use of any material, device, or equipment to restrict a student’s freedom of movement.
(3) Pharmacological Restraint: the use of a drug or medication to control behavior or restrict freedom of movement that is not medically warranted.

Q: What is Seclusion?
A: Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving.

Q: What are the new developments on Restraint & Seclusion?
A: Virginia enacted new regulations governing the use of Restraint & Seclusion in public schools that became effective January 1, 2021. On September 30, 2021, Arlington Public Schools enacted its “Physical Interventions for Students in Crisis Policy” that covers Restraint & Seclusion.

Q: Are APS schools allowed to restrain a student?
A: Yes, under narrow circumstances. Staff may use physical restraint in an emergency for the sole purpose of preventing imminent risk of serious physical injury, when other interventions would not be effective. Schools are prohibited from using mechanical restraints, pharmacological restraints or any type of restraint that restricts a student’s breathing or harms the student. For example, prone (face down) restraints are prohibited. Schools are also prohibited from using restraint as a form of punishment or discipline.

Q: Are APS schools allowed to place a student in Seclusion?
A: No. Seclusion is prohibited in APS.

Q: If a school restrains a student, is the school required to notify the parent/guardian?
A: Yes. The school must make a reasonable effort to contact parents as soon as possible on the day that the restraint occurred. The school will complete the Use of Restraint Documentation form no later than two school days after the incident and provide a copy to parents.

Q: What if my child has a medical or psychological contraindication to the use of restraint?
A: Restraint is prohibited when it is medically or psychologically contraindicated for the specific student and documented appropriately ahead of time.

Q: What can parents do if a school improperly restrains or secludes a child with a disability?
A: Parents have a range of options and resources available to them. Parents can request to convene an IEP or 504 team meeting. (This type of meeting is required when students are subjected to more than one incident in a school year, but parents can request a meeting for the first incident). Parents can also elevate issues within APS or contact one of the organizations listed in the Resource sections of

Students subjected to inappropriate restraint or seclusion have legal rights, and families may benefit from working with an attorney if they are in this difficult situation. Families with students who exhibit behaviors that put them at risk of being subjected to restraint or seclusion may also benefit from consulting with an attorney to discuss proactive strategies to reduce the likelihood that your child will be placed in this situation.