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U.S. Department of Education Announces Initiative to Protect Students with Disabilities from the Inappropriate Use of Restraint and Seclusion

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), students with disabilities are subjected to seclusion and mechanical and physical restraints at disproportionately higher rates relative to other students. The latest data shows that the majority of the reported 122,000 students restrained or secluded had disabilities, even as students with disabilities constituted only 12% and 2% of the student population under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, respectively. These numbers raise the issue of whether school districts are imposing restraint or seclusion in potentially discriminatory ways.

In response to this data, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced last month that DOE would be launching an initiative addressing the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in schools. This initiative focuses on helping school districts understand how federal law applies to restraint and seclusion, as well as providing resources on the use of supports to address the behavioral needs of students with disabilities. This initiative will include three key components:

  • The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regional offices will conduct compliance reviews on the use of restraint and seclusion on children with disabilities, and will work with school districts to remedy areas of noncompliance.
  • OCR will conduct data quality reviews and work with school districts to review and improve restraint and seclusion data submitted as part of the CRDC.
  • OCR and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) will provide additional support, such as technical assistance to public schools on the legal requirements relating to the use of restraint and seclusion on children with disabilities, as well as the use of interventions and supports for students.

The School Law attorneys at Stock and Leader monitor developments in special education and all other areas of school law. Please contact us should you have any questions or concerns about your district’s restraint and seclusion data and practices.

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