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Policies to Limit Seclusion and Physical Restraint of Students with Disabilities

Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommended policies to limit seclusion and physical restraint of students with disabilities.

The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on the publicly-funded K-12 school system. However, students and educators with disabilities also face barriers in other school settings, including:

  • Private schools
  • Pre-school programs, such as early literacy programs

Therefore, all these settings should comply with the forthcoming K-12 education standards.

Policies to Limit Seclusion and Physical Restraint of Students with Disabilities

Some students with disabilities benefit from spending time in quiet spaces, called sensory rooms or calming rooms. For instance, students may use these rooms proactively to help with self-regulation during the school day. However, some parents report that certain school boards use these spaces to discipline students who misbehave. Alternatively, school staff seclude students in these rooms, or physically restrain students, when they lack other accommodations. Moreover, each school board must develop its own policy to determine when seclusion and physical restraints are appropriate. In addition, school boards are not required to inform parents, or the Ministry of Education, when they have secluded or restrained a student.

Therefore, the Committee recommends that the Ministry should implement policies limiting seclusion and physical restraint of students with disabilities. These policies should mandate that school boards only use sensory rooms or calming rooms proactively, to support students’ self-regulation. In other words, schools should not seclude or physically restrain students to discipline them. Likewise, schools should not seclude or physically restrain students as a substitute for better methods of calming them. To promote this change, the Ministry should provide clear guidelines on the appropriate use of seclusion and restraints.

Furthermore, when a school secludes or restrains a student, the school should be required to notify the student’s parents or guardians in writing. Finally, each school should report yearly to its school board, and to the Minister in charge of the AODA, on the number of students secluded or restrained at that school. Each School board should use this data to post public reports detailing the total number of students secluded and restrained in that school board every year. In addition, the Ministry should collect data on seclusions and restraints at each school board, and publicly report each school board’s number of seclusions and restraints.