School operations

Restraint and Seclusion

When physical restraint and seclusion are permitted

Victorian government school staff may use seclusion or physical restraint where:

  • there is an immediate risk of physical harm or danger from acts or behaviour that are dangerous to the member of staff, the student, or any other person
  • the seclusion or physical restraint is reasonable in the circumstances
  • there is no less restrictive measure available to respond in the circumstances.

In this context 'reasonable' means:

  • proportionate to the risk of harm
  • discontinued once the risk of harm has dissipated
  • respectful of the student’s dignity.

Examples of physical restraint that might be 'reasonable' include:

  • using manual guidance to prevent a student running onto a busy road
  • holding a student’s arms to prevent them physically attacking someone
  • holding a student’s hand to prevent repetitive, serious self-injurious behaviour.

When seclusion or physical restraint are used in these limited circumstances, the:

  • minimum level of force is to be used to prevent harm
  • application must be for the minimum duration required and should be stopped once the risk has passed.

School staff must ensure the type of seclusion or physical restraint used takes a student’s individual needs and circumstances into account, including the following.

Age and size of the student

Students of different ages and abilities will respond differently to being physically restrained. For example, female students may be very uncomfortable being physically restrained by a male teacher. Older students may be of equal or greater physical size to staff making physical restraint difficult or higher risk.

Past behaviours of the student

Students whose behaviour has previously escalated when being physically restrained may pose a higher risk of physical harm to the adult(s) restraining.

Visual, hearing and/or communication needs of the student

Students who do not communicate using speech, who have limited speech, or who have limited vision or hearing may not be able to communicate their distress or injury when being restrained or follow the instructions of staff when being physically restrained.

History of trauma experienced by the student

Being physically restrained may remind the student of previous upsetting experiences (including physical and sexual abuse).

Environment in which the restraint is taking place

Learning environments offer a wide variety of considerations for the adult(s) to account for. For example, the type of flooring or ground cover, clothing worn which may increase or decrease risk, equipment and furnishings which may cause injury if struck.

Guidance chapter describing circumstances when physical restraint and seclusion are permitted in schools

Reviewed 25 July 2023

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