FALLS CHURCH, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - On Tuesday night, the Fairfax County Public Schools board of supervisors held a meeting to discuss the district’s controversial use of seclusion and restraint policy for students with special needs.
There have been growing concerns from parents and special education advocates after recent media reports showed students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined, restrained and secluded in school.
A board member told FOX 5 recent media coverage really forced their hand in calling a meeting at their headquarters to take a closer look at when and why this controversial policy is being used, if parents being properly notified and does the staff involved have the right training?
“This actually kind of happened to my son — four adults held him on the floor in a darkened room for 90 minutes,” a concerned parent described at a March 21 school board meeting.
The woman says her own experience with seclusion and restraint happened to her now adult son back when he attended Fairfax County Public Schools.
In March, WAMU revealed dramatic video of a child struggling to get out of a room while school staff appeared to push the child back in, as well as documents that showed hundreds of cases where kids as young as six were restrained or put in seclusion multiple times. It prompted some major concerns in the community.
In the past, the board told FOX 5 they do have students who sometimes have behaviors that require seclusion and restraint, however, it is only used in the most severe cases and as a last resort.
The district now plans to reevaluate the school system’s use and reporting of the policy at Tuesday’s meeting.
That’s what board member Elizabeth Schultz discussed earlier on FOX 5 News Morning:
I think there's going to be some very pointed questions from at least some of us board members. I've been the liaison to the board to the state-mandated advisory committee to students with disabilities for six of the last seven years I've been on the board. I think there are some questions that are going to come directly from board members or from the community to try and get more information about this... to the public about this... about how we're reporting numbers to the federal government, and how we're communicating the numbers to the public-at-large, so people understand better the frequency with which this happens. Maybe the number of students affected is not as large as people presume but if it's your child, that doesn't really matter. It's what's happening to your child: is it moral? Is it ethical? Do you understand it? Do you agree with it? Those are the real issues I think we're going to be pushing into the public tonight so we're transparent about how we talk about the practices of seclusion and restraint about students with disabilities.”