Colorado law makes it abundantly clear that a school employee may only use physical restraint on or seclude a student in very limited circumstances, usually only when a student is posing a threat to themselves or another. C.R.S. § 26-20-103. However, many school districts do not follow the law. Whether it be to lack of training, laziness, or just outright disapproval, it has become all too common for school’s to use restraint and/or seclusion as a form of discipline or convenience, especially with students with special needs.
Educators have an incredibly difficult task of teaching, supervising, and grooming our children into successful adults. However, using restraint on a child or secluding them can be incredibly traumatizing and should only be used in extreme circumstances. Unfortunately, while Colorado law prohibits the use of restraint and seclusion in most circumstances, there is no bite or consequences for the school districts that do not comply and leaves little regress for the families of victimized students.
The Colorado Department of Education receives complaints in education ranging from special needs students not receiving proper education to improper use of seclusion and restraint. If the CDE determines that an improper restraint was used or that a child was improperly secluded, they may recommend a school district to do certain things to stop the behavior, such as ordering additional training. However, that is all the law says it is: a recommendation. There is no recourse or consequences if a district simply refuses to comply.
The law prohibiting restraint and seclusion was passed in Colorado in 2017. While good intentioned, the law does not do enough to protect the children of the state. This isn’t to say that there is nothing a family can do if their child was improperly restrained or secluded, but until the law is changed, there is little a family can do.