US Dept of Justice Finds Frederick County MD Public Schools Discriminated Against Students with Disabilities Through Restraint & Seclusion

Dec 2, 2021 | Behavior, Restraint & Seclusion

After conducting an investigation under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) found that Frederick County Public Schools’ restraint and seclusion practices discriminated against students with disabilities (“SWD”) by denying them equal opportunity to participate in educational opportunities and failing to provide services in the most integrated setting.

The investigation revealed that, while SWD make up 11% of students enrolled in the District, every single student the District secluded was a SWD, as were 99% of the students the District restrained. 34 SWD were restrained more than 50 times and 89% percent of the reported seclusions and restraints took place at three schools that serve students with significant social, emotional and disability-related needs. DOJ found that the District violated state law and its own policy by not limiting the use of seclusion and restraint to emergency situations. Instead, FCPS improperly used seclusion and restraint to address noncompliant behavior that it should have anticipated and managed as part of educating students with emotional and behavioral disabilities, through IEP revisions and Behavior Improvement Plans.

On November 30, 2021 DOJ and FCPS entered into a Settlement Agreement. Under the Agreement, FCPS agrees to:

  • prohibit the use of seclusion;
  • assign at least one Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to every school that has a self-contained Classroom, with a minimum ratio of one BCBA for every 20 students in self-contained classrooms.
  • restrict the use of physical restraint to an emergency situation in which the restraint is necessary to protect a student or other person from imminent, serious, physical harm after other less intrusive, nonphysical interventions have failed or been determined inappropriate;
  • convene an IEP meeting after a physical restraint is used to consider conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA);
  • improve documenting, reporting and complaint procedures;
  • conduct mandatory training; and
  • provide counseling to students subjected to seclusion and restraint and compensatory education to students who were excluded from class as a result of seclusion or restraint.