Michigan Limits Restraint and Seclusion in Schools

diverse group of elementary school children smiling, with teacher.

by Andy Jones
January 26, 2017

Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley signed into law December 29 new legislation to limit the use of restraints and seclusion in schools, which are overwhelmingly used against students with disabilities.

"(Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services) would like to thank Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, the bill sponsors from both sides of the aisle, parents who shared their stories with us and with legislators, and all of the advocacy groups, teachers and school administrators who contributed to the success of this long overdue legislation,” said Mark McWilliams, director of public policy at MPAS, in a news release. “Lt. Governor Calley recognized, early on, the damage that is caused when a child's disability related behaviors are punished rather than properly addressed and now Michigan will join the ranks of other states putting an end to unnecessary and dangerous restraint and seclusion in non-emergent situations. 

“This common-sense reform is a victory for the disability advocacy community, but the real victors will be students and staff in Michigan schools who will be safe, protected, and positively supported thanks to this package of bills. "

Previously, the only limits on such practices in the state were a set of voluntary guidelines issued by the state Board of Education.

The new legislation comes in the form of a nine-bill package, a bill analysis of which can be read here [PDF].

The law restricts the legality of the use of restraint and seclusion methods to instances where a student poses a danger to him or herself or others. All uses of restraint and seclusion must be reported to the Michigan Department of Education, which must issue a new set of binding guidelines.

Staff training requirements are mandated, as are emergency intervention plans for students exhibiting a pattern of dangerous behaviors, among other reforms.

The following practices will be expressly banned: “corporeal punishment; the deprivation of basic needs; child abuse; seclusion, except emergency seclusion; mechanical restraint; chemical restraint; any restraint that negatively impacts breathing; prone restraint; physical restraint, except emergency physical restraint; any other type of restraint; and the intentional application of any noxious substance or stimulus that results in physical pain or extreme discomfort.”

Disability Rights Washington and Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and Michigan, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.