School operations

Restraint and Seclusion

When physical restraint and seclusion are prohibited

Victorian government school staff must never use physical restraint and seclusion as a behaviour management technique, for convenience, as retaliation, or to discipline or punish a student. For example, physical restraint and seclusion must not be used to respond to:

  • a student’s refusal to comply with a direction, unless that refusal to comply creates an imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or another person
  • a student leaving the classroom/school without permission, unless the leaving of the classroom or school causes foreseeable risk to the physical safety of the student or another person
  • verbal threats of harm from a student, except where there is a reasonable belief that the threat will be carried out immediately
  • property destruction caused by the student unless the property destruction is placing any person, including the student, at a risk of physical harm.

Physical restraint must never be used where it has the effect of:

  • covering the student’s mouth or nose, or in any way restricts breathing
  • taking the student to the ground into the prone position (lying flat with the face down – sometimes this will include lying flat with the face down and with hands held behind the head or neck) or supine position (lying with the face up)
  • putting stress on the joints of a student
  • applying pressure to the neck, back, chest or joints
  • deliberately applying pain to gain compliance
  • causing the student to fall
  • having a person sitting, lying, or kneeling on a student.

The following behaviours are prohibited:

  • headlocks, choke holds, basket holds, bear hugs, ‘therapeutic holding’ or wrestling holds (including 'full or half nelsons')
  • using a hog-tied position
  • straddling any part of a student's body
  • dragging a student along the ground.

Staff of government schools must not administer corporal punishment to any government school student.

Physical restraint and seclusion must never be included in any student plan including a Behaviour Support Plan (PDF)External Link and Student Safety Plan. This is because physical restraint or seclusion are not behaviour management techniques and physical restraint or seclusion cannot be planned. If staff can predict situations or behaviour that might pose a risk of physical harm or danger to a student or other people, they must have early intervention and prevention strategies in place.

Designated seclusion rooms and areas that are primarily used for the purpose of seclusion are prohibited.

Preventing a student from leaving an area normally used by students with a locking mechanism is prohibited. Doors and door handles installed in such a manner as to prevent a student from leaving the room unassisted are prohibited. For more information about the use of locks, coded locks, and door handles in schools, refer to the Locks, coded locks, and door handles guidance (DOCX)External Link available on the Resources tab.

Physical restraint is not permitted to be used to vaccinate a student. Vaccinations given on school property, including COVID-19 vaccinations given to students in school-based pop up clinics, must comply with the Restraint and Seclusion and Immunisation policies. For more information, refer to the Physical restraint and vaccinations guidance (DOCX)External Link available on the Resources tab.

Employee misconduct

Applying physical restraint or seclusion in a way that is inconsistent with the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines may constitute reportable conduct.

School staff have a range of legal and policy obligations with respect to protecting children and young people from abuse. Refer to Protecting Children – Reporting and Other Legal Obligations.

If a principal considers that a restrictive practice used by a school staff member was not appropriate in the circumstances or otherwise not compliant with the Restraint and Seclusion Policy, they must report the incident:

Guidance chapter prohibiting physical restraint and seclusion as a behaviour management technique, prohibiting certain behaviours and containing information on employee conduct

Reviewed 23 May 2022

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