The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released the following documents to assist the public in understanding how the Department interprets and enforces federal civil rights laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities and how the use of restraint or seclusion can result in discrimination against students with disabilities….” See the ED Press Release dated December 28, 2016.*
- Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
- The information starting on page 12 about “Student Evaluations and Placement Under Section 504” deserves attention as does “Additional Protections from Discrimination” starting on page 30.
- Dear Colleague Letter: Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities
- UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Office for Civil Rights December 2016 Page 1 of 2 Fact Sheet: Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities
- These two documents should be required reading for all administrators and teachers in school districts with “time out” rooms aka seclusion rooms aka isolation boxes.
- Dear Colleague, [for] Students with disabilities who are enrolled in public charter schools
- There are not many charter schools in Iowa yet; however, more could be on the horizon in this current political climate.
The Dear Colleague Letter: Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities states the following:
Specifically, students with disabilities served by the Individuals with DisabilitiesEducation Act (IDEA) represented 12% of students enrolled in public schools nationally, but 67% of the students who were subjected to restraint or seclusion in school.
The same Dear Colleague Letter notes in numbers 9 and 10 on pages 13 through 16 that even unintentional discrimination in schools’ use of restraint or seclusion may be illegal. Locally, Iowa City Community School District’s (ICCSD’s) superintendent stated at the December 2016 District Parent Organization meeting that its “time out” rooms were not used with non-special education students in recent years and that a committee will examine best practices and bring a recommendation to the board. See also the ICCSD board work session minutes here and The Gazette article here.
ICCSD’s board member Chris Liebig has written ICCSD should Dismantle the boxes at his Another Blog about School. The Dear Colleague Letter notes on page 21 that school districts may be required to provide compensatory services (among other remedies) if a student entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is denied the same because of wrongful restraint or seclusion–so there is potential school district liability, a further reason to eliminate the use of locked seclusion rooms.
The Dear Colleague Letter on page 22 poses the question Where can school districts turn in order to learn how to reduce or eliminate the use of restraint or seclusion in their schools? Notably, the response to this question includes the following, suggesting that an expert in childhood trauma and its treatment should be part of any ICCSD committee examining “time out” rooms.
Students who have experienced trauma in the past may be vulnerable in ways that some of their peers are not, and could therefore be impacted by the use of coercive practices in a much more significant way.
Absent an immediate and emergency threat to the safety of the students or others, school districts should eliminate the practices of restraint and seclusion.
*Thanks to COPAA’s Facebook page for bringing these documents to my attention.