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Special Education

Release of Restraint Data Reports

To:Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Principals, Charter School Leaders, and Leaders of Approved Special Education Schools
From:Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Date:February 21, 2018

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is releasing student restraint data for the 2016-2017 school year. We expect the Student Restraint Report will be available on the Department's website in early March. The report documents instances in which students in Massachusetts public schools, public school collaboratives, and approved day and residential special education schools were restrained by staff during school hours, as reported by each school. The Department hopes that the publication of these data will help inform discussions about the use of restraints and ultimately help schools better serve their students.

A. Collection and Reporting of Restraint Data

On December 16, 2014, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to approve amended regulations regarding the prevention and use of physical restraints. Those regulations went into effect on January 1, 2016. The text of the regulations is publicly available on the Department's website. As part of the regulatory changes, all publicly funded educational programs and schools are required to collect and annually report data to the Department regarding the use of physical restraints. To assist in the implementation of the regulatory changes, the Department issued a Question and Answer Guide Download PDF Document. The Department also developed an online reporting tool for all public educational programs and schools to submit their restraint information to the Department. For information on how the data is submitted, please see our technical assistance page. While individual restraint reports or reviews conducted by school personnel are part of the individual student's education record and contain personally identifiable student information and are not public documents, much of the overall restraint data for schools and districts that is reported to the Department may be made publicly available. As described in more detail below, the Department has taken a number of actions in order to protect student privacy in this report.

B. Description of the Student Restraint Report

The 2016-2017 school year is the first full school year for which the Department collected the restraint data required by the new regulations. Prior to January 1, 2016, schools or programs were only required to submit information in the event of an injury or when a restraint lasted longer than 20 minutes. This report only includes data for the 2016-2017 school year - July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 - for which the Department received data from the schools or programs. The report lists the following information: the name of the school district, the name of the school or program, the school code, the total enrollment, the number of students restrained, the total number of restraints, and the total number of injuries to students or staff. To protect student privacy, certain data in the report are suppressed. Data that have been suppressed is represented by a dash in the cell. For instance, data were suppressed (and a dash appears) when fewer than 6 students were restrained and the number of injuries to staff or students is between 1 and 5. As ESE does not collect enrollment data for collaboratives or approved special education schools, blank cells appear in their enrollment column. Schools are not listed here if they or their district on their behalf certified to the Department that they did not have any restraints. The schools listed in the report include public schools, public school collaboratives, and approved day and residential special education schools. These categories of schools serve different student populations, and some may have a significantly longer school year, which may account for differences in the data reported to the Department. Other factors that can lead to variation in restraint rates are age range and the health and safety needs of the students served. Because of these differences, the data reported do not support comparisons between schools.

C. Monitoring by the Department

In addition to the self-monitoring required by the regulations, the Department monitors for compliance with the physical restraint requirements during its Program Reviews and Mid-Cycle reviews for approved special education schools and public school districts. The Department expects to continue to provide this report for future school years. We appreciate your efforts to ensure the data submitted to the Department regarding this important issue is accurate. If you have any questions about the information in this memorandum, please contact Susan Fischer at

Last Updated: March 1, 2018

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