The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement Monday with the Cedar Rapids Community School District regarding its use of seclusion and restraints in its dealings with students with disabilities.
The department said its investigation found that the school district improperly and repeatedly segregated and restrained students with disabilities, some of whom were kindergarten-aged, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The department concluded that instead of meeting the needs of students who have disabilities that affect their behavior, the school district subdued them through unnecessary restraints and inappropriate confinement, placing them alone in small isolation rooms, sometimes several times in a day and often for excessive periods. of time.
As a result of these practices, some students have lost hundreds of instructional hours. The investigation also found that the school district was not releasing students from solitary confinement when students showed signs of crisis or trauma, or when there was no longer any threat of harm.
Under the settlement agreement, the Cedar Rapids Community School District voluntarily agreed to end the use of seclusion, reform its restraint practices and improve training for its staff on anticipating , addressing and de-escalating student disability behaviors through behavioral interventions.
“Students with disabilities should not be subjected to discriminatory and abusive isolation and restraint practices that deny them equal access to education,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division said Monday. of the Ministry of Justice. “When schools unlawfully isolate and detain children with disabilities, rather than providing them with the supports they need to succeed in the classroom, they violate the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our agreement sets the Cedar Rapids Community School District on a path of significant institutional change and reform.
U.S. Attorney Timothy T. Duax of the Northern District of Iowa said his office, in partnership with the department’s Civil Rights Division, will “vigorously investigate” all allegations of disability-based discrimination in all settings. , including public schools.
The school district cooperated fully throughout the investigation, according to the DOJ. Under the settlement agreement, the district will end its use of solitary confinement and implement several reforms:
— Limit the use of means of restraint, revise its procedures and practices for restraint and systematically implement these procedures and practices.
— Report all instances of use of restraints, then assess whether they were warranted.
— Provide counseling and other services to students who are restricted.
— Adopt policies and procedures to assess suicide risk, prevent suicide and self-harm, and implement immediate crisis intervention for students who threaten or self-harm.
— Hire two new administrators to oversee the district’s use of restraints and ensure district compliance with the settlement agreement and the ADA.
Cedar Rapids Community School District Superintendent Noreen Bush sent a letter Monday to families in the district, stating that beginning Oct. 10, the use of solitary confinement in all school buildings and programs will be discontinued and that the district will begin “rethinking how CRCSD staff members analyze and respond to student crisis behavior.
Bush said the change is the result of the DOJ investigation that began two years ago, adding that the district looks forward to “the opportunity to engage in this work for the benefit of all students at CRCSD. “.
Bush has served as district superintendent since 2019 and previously served as deputy and associate superintendent.
Over the past two years, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has entered into similar agreements with the Frederick County Public School District in Maryland and the North Gibson School Corporation in Indiana.