The California Department of Education (CDE) today released data on the number of instances in which schools used restraints and seclusions on students, the first year of data under a state law that requires schools to track and report such instances to the CDE.

The 2019–20 school year was the first that required local educational agencies (LEAs) to track and report to the CDE the use of restraints and seclusions with students receiving both general education and special education to the CDE under AB 2657. The data provides a starting point for the state to identify important trends and target support to school leaders.

“Publicly reporting this data is an important first step toward improving transparency and accountability by bringing potential issues to the surface,” Thurmond said. “Now that we have this data, the CDE can use this information as a starting point to begin having deeper, critical conversations with school system leaders.”

The legislation, which became effective January 1, 2019, only allows for schools to use restraints or seclusions “to control behavior that poses a clear and present danger of serious physical harm to the pupil or others that cannot be immediately prevented by a response that is less restrictive” and prohibits the use of restraints or seclusions for the purpose of coercion, discipline, convenience, or retaliation.”

The law uses the following definitions:

  • Mechanical Restraint: Use of a device or equipment to restrict a pupil’s freedom of movement.
  • Physical Restraint: A personal restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a pupil to move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head freely. (This definition does not include temporary touching or holding of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, or back for the purpose of inducing a student who is acting out to walk to a safe location.)
  • Seclusion: The involuntary confinement of a pupil alone in a room or area from which the pupil is physically prevented from leaving.

State law requires the CDE to report restraint and seclusion data at the LEA-level (county offices of education, school districts, and charter schools) and to disaggregate by race/ethnicity and gender. While not required by law, the CDE is also reporting separately for students attending non-public schools (NPS), the most restrictive placement for children with disabilities with the highest support needs. State law excludes restraints used by law enforcement.

A full breakdown of the first year of reporting this data under AB 2657 can be found below in Table 1.

Future years of reporting will provide a fuller picture of the use of restraints and seclusions in schools. Beyond the public reporting requirement in AB 2657, the CDE Special Education Division will use this data in its mandated monitoring activities to ensure that students with disabilities are receiving a Free and Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment.

Downloadable data files are available on the CDE Restraint and Seclusion web page.

Table 1: 2019–20 Statewide Restraint and Seclusion Data by Student Group