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Fairfax County, VA: (SPED) Students restrained 2,000 times between 2015 and 2016

Mar 13, 2019, American University/WAMU 88.5, Washington DC: Children Are Routinely Isolated In Some Fairfax County Schools. The District Didn’t Report It For years, Fairfax County Public Schools reported to the federal government that not a single student was physically restrained or trapped in an isolating space. But documents obtained by WAMU reveal hundreds of cases where children, some as young as 6 years old, were restrained or put in seclusion multiple times. In some cases, a single child was confined to a room almost 100 times in a school year. Fairfax County guidelines say this technique is used as a last resort — if a student is considered a danger to themselves or others. But parents of students who were repeatedly secluded or restrained say they felt that school officials used these methods as a first response. When asked why Fairfax school officials reported zero cases in 2009, 2013 and 2015, despite documentation showing otherwise, a spokesperson replied there was no requirement for the district to report the data to the state. … Melanie Lickenfelt is one of many parents who say school officials in Fairfax County didn’t properly document how many times her son, Elijah, was secluded. Lickenfelt says he was traumatized from his time in Fairfax schools. In 2014, Elijah started first grade at Forest Edge Elementary. He had just received an official autism diagnosis that August, but was “high functioning,” according to Lickenfelt. After several disruptive outbursts from Elijah, Lickenfelt says school officials gave her an ultimatum: send him to a special school for students with disabilities or let the school “take the proper actions” in response to his behavior. To Lickenfelt, that meant suspending Elijah and putting that on his permanent school record. “He was in there every day when I would go to pick him up. He basically lived in that room,” Lickenfelt says…. According to Lickenfelt, Armstrong Elementary has seclusion rooms that are built like Russian nesting dolls, rooms within a room. The innermost room was reserved for children with egregious behavior issues, she was told…. WAMU requested a tour of a seclusion room but has not yet been granted permission to see one. Fairfax County Public School officials say they are trying to accommodate the request. Each time Elijah acted out, he ended up in seclusion, and each time they put him in seclusion, it made him act out more. … “That’s hundreds of hours that he has been locked up in a room,” Tidd says, with her head hung over the stack of papers. “It makes me feel guilt because I should have done something. I just trusted the school. I thought that it would work, we were at our wits end with the behaviors and stuff. But it actually just made it worse.” “Toward the end, he would poop and pee himself to get out of the seclusion room. This is a child who was completely potty-trained since he was five,” Tidd explains. … Parents with students at other special-needs schools, including Eagle View Elementary, told WAMU that their children were traumatized by repeated seclusion. Multiple families say their kids exhibited post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD-like symptoms in response to school environments long after they were pulled out of settings with seclusion rooms. Constant seclusion also affected the academic achievement of some students…. Different Definitions Of Restraint According to documents obtained by WAMU, between 2015 and 2016, students were secluded or restrained in Fairfax County almost 2,000 times…. Lawmakers are currently relying on seclusion and restraint data collected by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to determine how widespread the use of seclusion and restraint is and what demographic of students are affected the most. But the lack of consistent reporting is part of the reason federal and state legislatures are looking to regulate the use of seclusion and restraint in public schools. In Virginia, a bill that would limit the use of seclusion and restraint passed the House and Senate earlier this year and awaits Governor Ralph Northam’s signature. The bill also clarifies reporting requirements, stating: “Each incident of seclusion or restraint shall be documented in a manner that describes the incident with sufficient detail, including the employee’s rationale for restraining or secluding the student and the methods employed. Such documentation shall be provided to the school board, the principal, and the student’s parent.” … Then in December 2004, a 13-year-old autistic student died while restrained in their care. Sanders says they were already looking to change their policies before the death, but the need to change gained a sense of urgency following the death. …


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