WAMU education reporter Jenny Abamu reported on DC’s use of restraint and seclusion in schools today and found wide disparities in how often schools in DC report using restraint and seclusion to the federal government. According to WAMU’s reporting –
In public schools in D.C., there were 804 incidents of seclusion and restraint reported to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in the 2015-16 school year. But because of the lack of cohesive policies, it’s not clear how reliable these numbers are. Across the 115 D.C. Public Schools, just 14 instances of seclusion and restraint were reported. But the 16 KIPP charter schools in the District reported nearly 700 instances.
D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) officials say they set “clear expectations” that staff do not seclude and restrain students unless it’s necessary.
When education officials in the mayor’s office were asked if they suspected DCPS or other charter schools were underreporting incidents, they didn’t directly respond to the question. They did note that they were working on developing cohesive policies to use and report seclusion and restraint of special education students. Those policies have been in the works since 2016.
AJE has long been concerned about the use of restraint and seclusion in DC schools and about the lack of regulations in DC that protect all students, regardless of where they go to school. While DCPS has a policy about restraint and seclusion, it is not clear how well it is implemented, and public individual charters schools are permitted to create any policy they want, or have no policy at all. We recently called for OSSE, the Public Charter School Board, DCPS and the Mayor’s office to work together to create city-wide protections for ALL students. We note that neighboring jurisdictions have taken steps to address this issue after similar reporting from WAMU, and we hope that DC takes this issue seriously and issues regulations on restraint and seclusion for public comment soon.