The U.S. Justice Department has announced a settlement agreement with the North Gibson School Corp. in Princeton to address the discriminatory secluding and restraining of students with disabilities. The department says the investigation confirmed that students as young as five years old were improperly restrained, resulting in lost instructional time.
The agreement follows an investigation conducted under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act into a complaint that the school district inappropriately secluded and restrained students with emotional and behavioral disabilities in the district’s self-contained classrooms.
“Students with disabilities, like all students, belong in classrooms where they can learn – not locked away or otherwise segregated from their peers,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “When school districts improperly seclude or restrain students with disabilities, they inflict grievous harm on some of America’s most vulnerable children.”
The department also investigated allegations that the school district regularly and inappropriately sent the students home early from school, placed them on abbreviated school days, and assigned them homebound instruction.
The district is planning to change its policies to prohibit use of seclusion rooms, report all instances of restraint and review whether they were justified, take steps to avoid placing students with emotional and behavioral disabilities on an abbreviated school day or homebound instruction and document those steps, create and implement a procedure for handling complaints of disability discrimination, provide appropriate training and resources to help schools implement the agreement, and appoint an intervention coordinator to ensure the district’s compliance, among others.
“Students with emotional and behavioral disabilities need additional supports in the classroom, not practices that keep them out or subject them to isolation and trauma,” said Dreiband. “We look forward to working with the North Gibson School Corporation as it implements this settlement agreement to provide students with disabilities equal access to education — a right guaranteed them by the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
According to the school district, it voluntarily suspended the use of seclusion rooms before the investigation was completed and agreed to take the steps outlined in the settlement.
“We are better as a community when our schools serve all of our students,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Childress for the Southern District of Indiana. “Our schools should be places where all children have the best chance to learn and grow and this agreement is a significant step toward achieving that goal.”
Under the agreement, the department says the school district will take proactive steps to ensure that its practices do not discriminate against students with disabilities.