DOJ Investigation Results in Settlement Agreement with Alaska School District Concerning Discriminatory Seclusion and Restraint Practices
March 06, 2023
The department’s investigation concluded that the district repeatedly and inappropriately secluded and restrained students with disabilities in violation of Title II. Despite state law and the district’s own policy, and contrary to generally accepted practice, the district did not limit its use of restraint and seclusion to emergency situations. Rather, the district used restraint and seclusion to address noncompliant student behavior, resulting in students missing large amounts of instructional time. Additionally, some students subjected to seclusion engaged in self-harm and expressed suicidal ideation.
“When schools use seclusion and improper restraints as the default method of managing the behavior of students with disabilities, they violate the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This agreement will help safeguard the civil rights of students with disabilities and ensure that the district adheres to policies that are equity-focused, child-centered and trauma-informed. The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously investigate allegations of discrimination on the basis of disability in public schools and focus on the practice of seclusion. In districts across the country, we have seen seclusion used against students with disabilities as an improper crisis response and in ways that escalate student behavior and can lead to self-harm.”
The district fully cooperated throughout the investigation, and before the investigation was completed began to re-evaluate its practices. Under the agreement, the district will, among other steps:
Enforcement of Title II of the ADA is a priority of the Civil Rights Division. This agreement is the most recent in a series of division settlements to address and prevent unlawful seclusion and restraint of students with disabilities in public schools. On Dec. 20, 2022, for example, the division reached a settlement with the Okaloosa County School District in Florida to address the discriminatory use of seclusion and restraint against students with disabilities. The division reached similar agreements in September 2022 with the Cedar Rapids Community School District in Iowa, in December 2021 with the Frederick Public School District in Maryland and in December 2020 with the North Gibson School Corporation in Indiana.
Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt, and additional information about the Educational Opportunities Section’s work is available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/educational-opportunities-section.
To learn more about the section’s work under the ADA to combat improper seclusion in schools, visit this website: https://www.justice.gov/schoolseclusion.
Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at www.civilrights.justice.gov/.