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stop school restraint isolation washington

House Bill 1479 and Senate Bill 5559 aim to stop schools from restraining or isolating students.

Free webinar: Stop child restraint, isolation in schools

Learn about measures aimed at ending a practice that largely impacts disabled students

Isolating and restraining students in schools, especially those in special education, can cause lifelong damage according to Disability Rights Washington, the Washingt0n chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU) and the League of Education Voters. 


That’s why the League is hosting a free educational webinar on the topic on Friday, January 27 beginning at 12:30 p.m. 


During the webinar parents will learn about the use of restraint and isolation in schools and about the two bills (House Bill 1479 and Senate Bill 5559) introduced in the 2023 session of the Washington State legislature aimed at putting an end to such practices. The measures would also provide technical support and alternatives when educators face a child who is out of control. Webinar participants will discuss those alternate approaches.

Lasting harm

“We are presenting (it) because isolation practices are still widespread in Washington schools and the practice causes lasting harm to students,” says Arik Korman, communications director for the League of Education Voters.

“Restraint and isolation are punitive and penal experiences for students and can have lasting harmful effects,” says Korman. “There are egregious disparities in the practices of restraint and isolation against Black students, multi-racial students, low-income students, unhoused students, students in foster care, and students with disabilities.” 

Disabled students restrained most

In a video to parents called “Restraint & Isolation Harms Students,” OSPI Director of School Health and Safety Lee Collyer reported that during the 2020 school year more than 25,000 incidents of student restraint and isolation were used on 3,500 students in Washington public schools. Of those, 80 percent were used on students in grades K-5. According to OSPI data that, 91% of restraints are experienced by students with disabilities, although Collyer said in his presentation that that number “is probably a little high.” More likely 75-80% of restaurants and isolation tactics are perpetrated on students with disabilities. 


An old system that doesn’t work

The use of restraint and isolation in school came from a model of behavior management first use in the juvenile justice system. 

“We are moving toward a system that outlaws isolation entirely,” Collyer said. “The idea that we need to use this as a practice is patently absurd.”

Former students will participate in the webinar to share their feedback and experiences in the classroom and Spanish and ASL interpretation and closed captioning in English will be provided.

Conversation panelists include Collyer, ACLU Policy Analyst Mina Barahimi Martin, disability rights attorney Andrea Kadlec, and Eric Warwick, community advocacy coordinator at The Arc of King County. Warwick experienced restraint and isolation as a special education student and has worked as a paraeducator.

Track the bills & register for webinar

To track House Bill 1479 and Senate Bill 5559, go to the Crosscut WA Bill Tracker.

Register for the webinar online through Zoom

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About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at