A Call for Change to the Law Regarding Restraints in Public Schools

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As Colorado’s federally-mandated and state-designated Protection and Advocacy System, Disability Law Colorado (“DLC”) has investigated nearly 100 allegations of abuse and neglect in public schools, most of which centered on the improper use of seclusion and restraints.  These investigations involved 105 students from more than 75 schools within 35 school districts across the state.  Though we are pleased that school districts have uniformly agreed to correct any wrongdoing found during investigations, in recent years DLC has decided to focus more systemically on the issue.  

Beginning in 2012, with generous funding from the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council (“DD Council”) and the support of the Colorado Department of Education (“CDE”), DLC collected restraint data from more than two-thirds of Colorado’s school districts and conducted over twenty (20) trainings across the state to school district staff and parents.  In total, DLC has trained more than 300 school district staff members and over 75 parents and advocates.  DLC has also created tools to assist school districts with reporting and help parents better advocate for their children. 

As a result of our training efforts and data collection, DLC has determined that, when it comes to restraints in schools, school district staff need more training, increased resources, and clearly defined guidelines on engaging in and reporting restraints.  We have also determined that parents and advocates need better options than simply going to federal court to enforce their children’s rights in school.   Though we are happy to be a part of the solution and will continue to conduct investigations, present trainings, and provide advocacy on behalf of students, this issue affects all 900,000 students in Colorado public schools.  The enormity of the situation simply requires a broader solution.   

To that end, DLC is calling for legislative action.  First, it is time that Colorado come into line with many other states, our own Department of Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and ban the use of prone (face down) restraints in public schools.  This is a dangerous practice that has led to the deaths of children in every state.  Second, we need

to provide clear guidance to schools on what data they need to keep regarding restraints and have an annual data collection and review process.  Finally, we need to provide parents an avenue, short of federal litigation, to address potential violations of the restraint rules in school.

We ask for your support in these very important efforts.  Statistics prove that students with disabilities are restrained far more often than their typically-developing peers; so on behalf of the 90,000 Colorado students with disabilities, please review our report, “What’s Holding Our Students Down?  Restraint in Colorado Schools”, visit our website for more information www.disabilitylawco.org, and contact your State representatives to urge them to support a bill to protect the rights of students in school.  Our students deserve it.


photo of front cover of report - What's Holding Students Down: Restraint in Colorado Schools

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