Physical Restraint Overview


22 Pa. Code Chapter 14 provides guidance on physical restraints. The regulations state that restraints are only to be considered as a measure of last resort, only after other less restrictive measures have been used, and the use of prone restraints is prohibited in PA educational settings. Prone restraints are those in which a student is held face down on the floor.


A Restraint defined in Chapter 14 indicates:

A restraint is the application of physical force, with or without the use of any device, for the purpose of restraining the free movement of a student’s body. 

The term does not include briefly holding, without force, a student to calm or comfort him, guiding a student to an appropriate activity, or holding a student’s hand to safely escort him/her from one area to another. The term does not include hand-over-hand assistance with feeding or task completion and techniques prescribed by a qualified medical professional for reasons of safety or for therapeutic or medical treatment, as agreed to by the student’s parents and specified in the IEP. 

Devices used for physical or occupational therapy, seatbelts in wheelchairs or on toilets used for balance and safety, safety harnesses in buses, and functional positioning devices are examples of mechanical restraints which are excluded from this definition.

Restraints to control acute or episodic aggressive or self-injurious behavior may be used only when the student is acting in a manner as to be a clear and present danger to himself/herself, to other students, or to employees, and only when less restrictive measures and techniques have proven to be or are less effective.

The regulations specify that AVERSIVE TECHNIQUES ARE PROHIBITED. These are:

  • Corporal punishment
  • Punishment for a manifestation of disability
  • Locked rooms, boxes, or other structures or spaces from which the student cannot readily exit
  • Noxious substance
  • Deprivation of basic human rights, such as withholding meals, water, or fresh air
  • Suspension constituting a pattern
  • Treatment of a demeaning nature
  • Electric shock

Requirements When Restraint Used:

The school must notify the parent of the use of restraint to control the behavior of a student. The Bureau of Special Education recommends this notification be within one school day of the restraint. Additionally, there needs to be an IEP team meeting within 10 school days of the inappropriate behavior causing the use of restraints. The only reason for an IEP meeting to not take place is if the parent, after written notice, agrees in writing to waive the meeting.

When an IEP meeting occurs, the team shall consider whether the student or eligible young child needs a functional behavioral assessment, reevaluation, a new or revised positive behavior support plan, or a change of placement to address the inappropriate behavior. The outcome of this meeting must be documented.


Restraint Contained in IEP


The use of restraints may be included in a student’s IEP ONLY if the following conditions apply:

  • The restraint is utilized with specific component elements of positive behavior support.
  • The restraint is used in conjunction with the teaching of socially acceptable alternative skills to replace problem behavior.
  • Staff is authorized to use the procedure and have received the staff training required.
  • There is a plan in place for eliminating the use of restraints through the application of positive behavior support.
  • The use of restraints may not be included in the IEP for the convenience of staff, as a substitute for an educational program, or employed as punishment.

Reporting of Restraints

Chapter 14 requires reporting of restraints in the Commonwealth. The reporting system developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education is known as RISC (Restraint Information System of Collection). Anytime a restraint is used, it must be reported to PDE via RISC. It is also the responsibility of the home school district to report all incidences of restraints, even for those students attending an Approved Private School or out of district placement.

If a school district does not have any restraints within a school year, this also must be reported by June 30 of each year.


The web-based system for reporting all restraints of special education students (RISC) is located in a  Google document. This system is only accessible to LEA designated individuals. Each district has a mechanism to conduct this function. However, it is important staffs understand all of the elements that are required to be reported. The data fields required are as follows:

  • PA Secure Student ID#.
  • Student’s Disability (drop down list provided).
  • Student’s Grade Level (drop down list provided.)
  • Age of Student
  • School Building Attended (drop down list provided).
  • Program Location (drop down list provided).
  • Date when the restraints was used to control aggressive behavior (calendar appears).
  • Physical location where intervention occurred (drop down list provided).
  • Type of restraint(s) used (drop down list provided).
  • Length of time restraint lasted (drop down list provided).
  • Number of staff who conducted the restraint (drop down list provided).
  • Staff titles (NOT NAMES) of individuals who conducted the restraint.
  • Were the staff involved in the restraint trained and certified in the use of de-escalation techniques and the use of safe physical restraints?
  • Did any injury occur to student and/or staff? If so, what kind?
  • Date the injury of student or staff was reported to the BSE (maximum of three school days from incident).
  • Was the student who was restrained referred to law enforcement?
  • Date of parent notification of the use of a restraint (within one school day from the incident).
  • Was the use of restraints listed in the student’s IEP?
  • Date IEP team meeting held (calendar appears)..
  • If appropriate, date waiver of IEP team meeting signed by parent (calendar appears).
  • Were a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA), Reevaluation, new or revised behavior support plan or change of placement considered and discussed?
  • Restraint reports may be entered and then saved as “in process” until after the IEP meeting is held. At that time they may be updated and saved as final.
  • If a district does not finalize the report by entering either an IEP meeting date or the date of receipt of the signed parental waiver within 20 days of the restraint, the system will log the school as out-of-compliance and your Special Education Adviser will contact you for follow-up.

Monitoring of Restraint Tracking


Each time a restraint is entered into RISC, the Bureau of Special Education (BSE) staff is notified. A person from the Bureau reviews the data within ten working days of recording. If BSE has questions, the contact person for the school entity will be notified.

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