Dept. of Justice reaches settlement with FCPS to address the seclusion and restraint of students with disabilities

Maryland

FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — The Department of Justice found that Frederick County Public Schools violated the law in their practice of secluding and restraining students with disabilities. 

The Department of Justice investigation revealed that during the 2017-2018 school year and the first half of the 2019-2020 school year, FCPS performed 7,253 seclusions and restraints on 125 students. While students with disabilities make up only 10.8 percent of enrolled students.

“These are interventions that are traumatic, they can be dangerous, they can cause injury, they can cause death,” said Leslie Seid Margolis, Managing Attorney at Disability Rights Maryland. “They are what people rely on when they don’t know what else to do with a student.”

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division concluded that these acts were in violation of Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). 

“Every child should feel safe and protected while in school.  The use of seclusion rooms and unjustified physical restraints on young people, particularly those with disabilities, falls painfully short of a school district’s responsibility to support the safety, health, and educational needs of its students.  Students with disabilities deserve a school environment rooted in positive, preventive, and supportive classroom strategies,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron. 

Under the settlement, Frederick County will end the use of seclusion, overhaul its restraint practices, and train staff on the use of appropriate behavioral interventions for students with disabilities.

“The agreement identifies areas for process improvement and highlights the areas where FCPS has already begun transitioning our practices to ensure they are aligned with best practices and the requirements outlined in the agreement,” FCPS wrote in a statement.

For now, the school district must have an IEP meeting within 10 school days anytime a student is subjected to physical restraint.

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