New Guidance from ED about the “Rights of Students with Disabilities” and “Restraint and Seclusion” in Public Schools

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.*

The Dear Colleague Letter: Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities states the following:

Specifically, students with disabilities served by the Individuals with Disabilities
Education 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.

This entry was posted in ICCSD, Iowa City Schools, isolation box, Restraint and Seclusion, Students with Disabilities, Time Out, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to New Guidance from ED about the “Rights of Students with Disabilities” and “Restraint and Seclusion” in Public Schools

  1. Seclusion rooms also exist here in Canada. Seclusion is regulated in prisons and mental facilities but not in schools. Why is that? Schools can basically do whatever they want and these rooms are often misused and poorly trained school staff does not know how to adequately handle these special education kids. Even if there are guidelines, like in my province, they are not enforced and not followed. The kids and their parents/guardians are paying for this.

    Even though public tax dollars fund the public school system there seems to be no accountability regarding this issue and this needs to change.

    Please sign my petition to have these seclusion rooms either banned or at least regulated to prevent any more misuse and abuse. If you have similiar issues I encourage you to also make a petition to your Minister of Education.

    Please sign the petition here and thank you.


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