Education is always an emotional matter for parents and children alike, but few questions cause more controversy than the use of restraint and seclusion in Alabama schools. These practices have a history of being used disproportionately with children having disabilities, which certainly increases the concern.

Below are some common-sense suggestions and practical advice from experienced advocates. Being better informed and prepared can often help in being and feeling more empowered when you need it most.

Know the laws and policies that apply to your school

Alabama’s regulations on the use of seclusion and restraint in public schools apply to all students.

But according to the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP), if your child has a disability you should be especially aware of the rules, policies and procedures that the state and your local district have set for themselves.

You and your child have rights under these laws and policies, and there are steps you can take to advocate for your child to see that your child’s needs are safely met.

Taking proactive action to prevent trouble before it happens

The program’s useful brochure recommends the following advocacy steps you can take on behalf of your child.

  • Ask for a copy of your schools written restraint policies.
  • Ask for the specifics of the training your child’s teachers have received in restraint, prevention, de-escalation, and positive behavioral intervention. Ask for written training documentation.
  • Schedule an IEP meeting to plan in detail how the school will approach your individual child’s behavior. Request that a behavior plan be developed for your child.
  • Do not permit the use of restraint in your child’s IEP or behavior plan. According to the ADAP, restraint is an emergency response used when planned strategies in the plan have failed. They should not be regarded as planned interventions.
  • If restraint is used on your child, go to the debriefing session and try to determine if your child’s IEP and/or behavior plan was followed before the restraint. Convene an IEP meeting to change the IEP accordingly.

ADAP is part of a program resulting from the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000. It requires the Alabama governor to designate a system to empower, protect, and advocate on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities.