Disability Rights Arkansas (DRA) has long held that students, especially those with disabilities, need legal protections regarding the use of restraints and seclusion in school settingsUpdated national data continues to indicate that students with disabilities are disproportionately restrained and secluded in comparison to their non-disabled peers.  

In the past decade, Congress has attempted to legislate reporting criteria and documentation, most recently in 2018. In January of 2019, the Department of Education launched an Initiative to Address the Inappropriate Use of Restraint and Seclusion. This initiative includes a partnership between the Office of Civil Rights and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to increase 1) understanding of how federal laws regarding disabilities impact restraint and seclusion; 2) accurate data collection; and 3) provide technical assistance to schoolsWhile these efforts are promising, very little has been published regarding the impact of the initiative.  

Today, the issues of restraint and seclusion are in the hands of the individual statesArkansas has no laws regarding the implementation, documentation, or review of restraint and seclusion, only recommended guidelinesMany of our school districts are unaware of these guidelines; if aware, the extent to which they comply varies widely. This puts our students at risk for improper and excessive use of these controversial interventions.  

What now? 

  • Knowledge is power.  Read and share the ADE guidelines. 
  • Ask your school district about its policies and procedures regarding seclusion and restraint.  
  • If the information regarding restraint and seclusion is not readily available or appears inadequate, contact Disability Rights Arkansas 
  • Contact your local representatives. The safety of our students should not be up to individual districts. Encourage our representatives to enact state-wide legal protections. 


 Abigail Craig is an advocate at Disability Rights Arkansas. Email her at acraig@disabilityrightsar.org.