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New Seclusion and Restraint Rules Now In Effect

Joel Gerring

By Joel Gerring, MASB Assistant Legal Counsel

DashBoard, Aug. 30, 2017

New laws regarding the emergency use of seclusion and restraint (MCL 380.1307 – 1307h) took effect on Aug. 1 of this year with the intent of restricting the use of seclusion and physical restraint in Michigan schools.

The objective of these changes to the original 2006 law was to place a larger emphasis on student welfare and dignity, as well as encourage the use of proactive, evidence-based strategies to more effectively manage occurrences of challenging behavior from pupils while reducing the loss of instructional time. Seclusion and restraint methods are now to be considered as last resort actions in emergency situations, and are subject to very specific monitoring and reporting mandates. The Michigan Department of Education was tasked with developing policies regarding these new statutes, which were approved by the State Board of Education this past March.

Every public school district (including ISD programs with pupil enrollment) and public school academies in Michigan must now report to MDE periodically with respect to their use of seclusion and restraint methods. MDE is then charged with compiling aggregate data on the topic. Schools are likewise expected to adopt a behavioral support approach for students that uses a variety of strategies that emphasize positive behavioral interventions with the goal of lowering seclusion and restraint instances. The hope is that consistent instruction and reinforcement of positive behaviors will result in better academic and social outcomes for students without having to resort to punishment techniques, especially those considered more extreme, such as physical restraint or isolation of the pupil.

A comprehensive training framework, devised by MDE, will be mandatory for employees who are identified as “key personnel” by the district. These individuals will then be charged with dealing with those emergency situations where seclusion and/or restraint techniques may be necessary. These individuals must receive heightened training; therefore, it is recommended that districts contact either their ISD or a crisis prevention training vendor in order to explore the potential options. Obviously, for most districts, the task of identifying key personnel and ensuring that the proper training has occurred, will fall to the superintendent.

In addition to the more intensive training for key personnel, general training for all staff members who have regular contact with students should also take place. Thrun Law Firm has distributed an “awareness training” module that it developed along with SET SEG School Insurance Specialists to all of its retainer clients. Likewise, the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals is offering an Awareness Training Toolkit, free of charge. Both trainings are MDE approved but, again, only for the instruction of individuals who have not been designated as key personnel.

Finally, some policy language reflecting the spirit and intent of these statutes should be adopted. NEOLA clients should have already received new policy language on this issue, while other districts can consult with their retained legal counsel regarding such.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact the MASB Legal Team at 517.327.5900. 

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