Doing What’s Best for Kids

Instructional Programs and Materials AP 223: Seclusion and Physical Restraints


The Fort McMurray School Division is committed to ensuring a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments for all children, students and staff members.  Schools that have a positive school culture promote positive behavior in children and students which can reduce occurrences of challenging behaviors that negatively affect teaching and learning. 

The Fort McMurray School Division is committed to engaging the three core partners on a child’s learning support team: the student, parent/guardian and school staff.  It is expected that school personnel implement effective supports and interventions to prevent and de-escalate potentially unsafe situations.

The Division supports the responsibilities as defined in Section 33.1(d) of the Education Act, the Guidelines for Time-out in Alberta Schools and the Standards for Seclusion and Physical Restraint in Alberta Schools to establish the safety and well-being of students and staff within a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment. Support for a student who has difficulty self-regulating physically aggressive behaviour shall be focused on employing preventative measures that minimize the use of physical restraint, which will be used only in exceptional circumstances where there is imminent risk of harm to self or others. Interventions used to support a students will be carried out in a manner that maintains the student’s dignity and the safety of all involved. 


Behaviour Support Plan means a written plan that is designed to target the underlying reason for behaviour, replace the inappropriate behavior with an appropriate behavior that serves the same function, and reduce or eliminate the challenging behaviour.

Non-Violent Crisis Intervention means physical and non-physical methods to manage disruptive behavior and maintain safety for children or students and others.  Non-Violent Crisis Intervention is utilized as part of de-escalation and preventative strategies.

Safety Plan means procedures that focus on the prevention of child or student behaviours that are unsafe by staff trained in Non-Violent Crisis Intervention.  These procedures ensure the safety of staff and students and include a variety of strategies, including but not limited to disengagement, physical escort or physical restraint.

Time-Outs: shall refer to a behaviour intervention for the purposes of reducing or stopping challenging physical behaviour in the long-term, whereas physical restraints are emergency or safety procedures that are to be used in an exceptional situation for immediately preventing harm to self or to others.  A time-out is often inaccurately used to refer to other physical spaces to support student needs outside of the classroom. A child may relocate to a separate space for a variety of reasons, such as:  access to a sensory room, relocate to a quiet work space or in a distraction-free environment for specific purposes. These environmental strategies are not considered time-outs.

Physical Restraint means any method of using physical contact for restricting or immobilizing another person’s freedom of movement, physical activity or normal access to their body.  Physical restraint does not include physical escort, or temporary physical contact for purposes such as moving a student away from danger or breaking up a fight.  Physical Restraint is not temporarily touching or holding of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder or back for the purpose of accompanying and inducing a child or student who is beginning to act out or is slightly agitated to walk to a safe location.  Physical restraint also does not include providing physical guidance or the prompting for a child/student when teaching a skill.  Physical restraint and seclusion are two separate procedures, although sometimes they are mistakenly interconnected.

Positive Behaviour Supports means a school-wide collaborative effort to design and implement strategies, practices and interventions for promoting positive social and communication skills.  It is also useful for teaching, coaching and reinforcing skills required for academic and social success.  It involves school-wide, targeted and intensive or individualized behavior supports.  The focus is on prevention and employing de-escalations strategies to defuse situations as the primary objective when dealing with challenging behaviour.

Sensory Room is a dedicated area in the school where students can stimulate or calm their senses by engaging with a range of equipment, lighting or sounds.  A sensory room is designed to support self-regulation and positive behaviour and can be used by one or more students at a time. A sensory room is not intended to be used as a seclusion room.

Crisis management includes decisions or actions informed through training that are used by staff only as a last resort when a student’s behaviour is dangerous or imminently dangerous. These decisions and actions are used to ensure student and staff safety and are comprised of a range of strategies and procedures, including but not limited to: physical restraint and the use of a seclusion room.

Seclusion Room means a room, structure, or enclosure in a school for the primary purpose of use of involuntary confinement or isolation of a child or student where the child or student is prevented from or incapable of leaving the room, structure, or enclosure without the assistance of the supervised specialized staff and/or teacher (eg: locked or held shut door).  Seclusion Rooms are not to be used for Exclusion Time-out purposes,  but rather only in exceptional circumstances to prevent harm to self or others.


  1. The Principal has the responsibility for: 
    1. The engagement with students, staff and parents/guardians around expectations and standards related to the use of physical restraint.
    2. Ensuring that school staff have access to the appropriate specialized expertise and related professional learning in implementing positive and proactive strategies to reduce the need for Time-outs and prevent the use of Seclusion and/or Physical Restraint.
    3. Ensuring adequate staff are trained in the techniques of Non-Violent Crisis Intervention and procedures in emergency situations to use Physical Restraint.
    4. Ensure that a Behaviour Support Plan is developed and implemented for all students who meet the criteria for severe behaviour.
  2. The Division permits the use of Seclusion and Physical Restraint as an emergency, safety, or crisis management procedure only.   All requirements as noted in the Standards for Seclusion and Physical Restraint in Alberta Schools, Alberta Education, November 2019, must be adhered to. The Head of Inclusive Learning is responsible for oversight of the use of Seclusion Rooms and/or Physical Restraint in schools.
  3. The Division expects schools to use positive behavior supports; however, permits Physical Restraint in all schools as a measure of last resort and only as a safety or crisis management procedure.  Physical Restraint is recognized as an emergency, safety, or crisis management procedure in educational settings, not as a behaviour management procedure.
  4. If an Exclusion Time-out is to be used as a behaviour reduction strategy for a child or student who displays challenging behaviour that negatively affects their learning or the learning of others on an on-going or recurrent basis, where possible meaningful discussions and informed written parental consent is obtained prior to use.  This procedure is documented in the student’s Behaviour Support Plan.  The school will work with parents to identify crisis response strategy and document in the student’s Behavior Support Plan. 
  5. Physical Restraint is only to be used in exceptional circumstances as a last resort by staff trained in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention in situations where the child or student is in danger of hurting themselves or others.  All requirements as noted in the Standards for Seclusion and Physical Restraint in Alberta Schools as outlined by Alberta Education, November 2019, must be adhered to. The following steps should be taken:
    1. If the crisis measure of Physical Restraint is needed, staff members will implement a step-down process to end the physical restraint or seclusion through observation and verbal communication with the student and staff member(s). 
    2. If the protocol lasts more than 30 minutes and the student continues to pose a threat to themselves or others, follow the identified steps in the behaviour plan, which may include contacting parents or emergency services. 
    3. The student can help decide when they are ready to leave the room, or communicate when physical restraint is no longer needed. Staff can incorporate a period of observation to ensure classroom readiness and develop a plan for re-entry into the classroom. 
    4. When the student is de-escalated, provide the student with an opportunity to make a plan for prevention of escalation in the future. 
  6. Staff must complete a Physical Restraint or Seclusion Incident Report following any situation where Physical Restraint or seclusion room has been used.  After each incident where there is use of seclusion and/or physical restraint, it is required that:
    1. the principal is to be notified as soon as possible and on the day of the incident.  The principal will notify the student’s parents/guardians and the Superintendent and the Head of Inclusive Learning.
    2. the completed form is to be reported to the office of the Head of Inclusive Learning for the use of reviewing the incident and reporting to the Superintendent.
    3. an opportunity to debrief with parents/guardians and the child/student, where appropriate, is provided as soon as possible after the incident; and
    4. the Principal is responsible for a debriefing with the appropriate staff and working with the Head of Inclusive Learning on the incident.
  7. Recurrent use of Physical Restraint is not to be a regular part of a child’s or student’s educational program.  When the use of Physical Restraint is required as a safety, emergency or crisis measure, parent or guardian consent must be noted in writing within the crisis management plan developed for the child or student.