​​​​​Deb Davis
Non-Attorney Education Advocate

Formally of Deb Davis Advocacy

The Maine Coalition Against Restraint and Seclusion (MeCARS)


COVID-19 Increases Urgency to Prioritize Supportive Services and to Reduce the Use of
Exclusionary and Dangerous Interventions of Time Out Rooms, Seclusion and Restraint.
Most every public school student in Maine left their school buildings in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the 2019-2020 school year may turn out to be the first time in seven years that Maine’s record-high use of restraint and seclusion did not increase. Maine schools use restraint and seclusion at a rate four times the national average with over 22,000 during the 2018-2019 school year alone.

Students, faculty, and staff in Maine have not had to endure these dangerous interventions for the past five months and we believe they deserve to begin the new school year safely. We urge school districts to take this opportunity to commit
to supporting students without the use of time out rooms, seclusion, or restraint.
The law regarding the use of restraint and seclusion in Maine schools has not changed.

The Maine Department of Education (MDOE) Chapter 33 Rule recognizes that restraint and seclusion do not have any therapeutic or educational benefit and they can only be used as emergency interventions when there is a risk of injury or harm and only after less intrusive interventions have failed. Chapter 33 prioritizes the use of behavior assessment, intervention, and strategies to address problem behaviors through skill building and environmental modifications in order to avoid situations where an emergency might be created. Chapter 33 also requires detailed documentation and reporting to ensure that parents and the MDOE are notified. And, it includes debriefing requirements for not only the student and staff involved,
but also for the school to assess aggregate data to identify areas where they could reduce theuse of future emergency interventions.
As schools reopen, there will be a great need to address the social-emotional and behavioral
needs of all students, through school wide approaches and systems. In addition, schools must
continue the individualized planning process for students that are served under IDEA and
Section 504. The MDOE highlights the need to focus on student supports in Parts II-IV of their
‘Framework for Reopening Schools and Returning to In-Person Instruction’, available at:
https://www.maine.gov/doe/framework. We urge school districts to begin the year working
collaboratively with parents and students to avoid incidents that may lead to the use of these
exclusionary and dangerous interventions.
MeCARS is also concerned that schools might use seclusion related to COVID-19. In MDOE’s
Framework, they require schools to designate a medical isolation room for students and staff
who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms during the school day. If medical isolation isn’t voluntary, at a
minimum it must be recorded as seclusion and follow Chapter 33.
On 8/14/2020, MDOE issued guidance that included ‘Physical Restraint/Seclusion and COVID-
19.’ MDOE appropriately highlights the heightened risk of transferring COVID-19 when a staff
restrains or secludes a student. And, they state that “students involved in emergency physical
restraint and seclusion should have a free and unobstructed airway and should not be wearing
a face covering during a physical restraint or seclusion.”
To proactively address these concerns, MDOE may want to consider reviewing schools’
historical use of restraint and seclusion to focus on schools that may need additional support in
preventing the use of these dangerous interventions that have been made even more unsafe
due to COVID-19. That data is available at:
Maine Department of Education:
-MDOE’s restraint and seclusion website includes information on data, training, and Chapter 33
requirements, available at:
-Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), available at:
-MDOE 8/14/2020 guidance, “Guidance on PPE, Toileting, Restraint & Seclusion”, available at:
National Disability Rights Network:
-2020-21 School Reopening Principles, available at: https://www.ndrn.org/wp-
U.S. Department of Education:
-Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document, available at:
-Reports, Testimony and Letters Regarding Seclusions and Restraints, available at:
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