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Anchorage, AK: District to eliminate seclusion, limit use of restraint;

Feb 16, 2023, UK Independent: DOJ faults Alaska district for use of seclusion, restraints Alaska’s largest school district repeatedly and inappropriately secluded and restrained students with disabilities

Alaska’s largest school district repeatedly and inappropriately secluded and restrained students with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday following an investigation into alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to an agreement reached between the Justice Department and Anchorage schools, the district will eliminate the use of seclusion at all schools and ensure that students are only restrained when there is imminent danger of “serious physical harm to the student or another person.”

“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," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

“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,” Clarke said….

Since 2017, five other school districts across the country have entered into agreements with the department over seclusion enforcement, including in Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Indiana and Kentucky….

"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,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “Rather, the district used restraint and seclusion to address noncompliant student behavior, resulting in students missing large amounts of instructional time.”

It also found that some students who were put into seclusion harmed themselves and some expressed suicidal thoughts.

The practice was found at five Anchorage schools, one of which no longer has programs for students with disabilities. It's not known for how long the practice was in place in Anchorage, but Tarlesha Wayne, senior director of special education for the district, said it has been widespread across the country for decades. She couldn't say how many Anchorage students have been involved but that it was more than 100….

The district is not allowed to use any type of medical or mechanical restraint. If needed, one or two adults typically hold the arms of a student on each side to prevent them from hitting a staff person or attacking another student.

The agreement will ensure the district adheres to “policies that are equity-focused, child-centered and trauma-informed,” Clarke said.

The Justice Department said the Anchorage School District fully cooperated with the investigation, which began in November 2020, and began to reevaluate its practices before the investigation was completed. Bryantt became district superintendent last summer.

Under terms of the agreement, the district will eliminate the use of seclusion at all district schools beginning with the 2023-2024 school year….


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