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Frederick, MA: "More than 10,000 seclusions, restraints on 395 students" over 2 1/2 yrs

A Frederick County mother has filed suit against the public school district, alleging that her son was restrained and secluded 171 times between his third and fifth grade years.

Laurie Lindberg filed the lawsuit in Frederick County Circuit Court on June 30. The complaint alleges that her son, who has autism, suffered trauma and emotional distress as a result of the repeated restraints and seclusions.

The child attended three different schools between 2016 and 2019, the complaint says. He was enrolled in Orchard Grove Elementary School for third grade in 2016, Lewistown Elementary School for fourth grade in 2017 and Spring Ridge Elementary School in 2018 for fifth grade.

The complaint alleges that the 171 seclusions and restraints occurred in “non-emergency situations.”

In addition, Lindberg alleges that although her son was diagnosed with autism in 2017, his Individual Education Plans (IEPs) from 2018 and 2019 labeled him as “having a behavioral disorder related to attention deficit disorder with no mention of Autism.”

The school staff did not follow the child’s IEP or behavior plans, the complaint alleges….

Lindberg’s suit accuses FCPS of negligence and violating the child’s Fourth Amendment rights.

“FCPS had a duty to ensure that proper procedures were followed to ensure its staff were adequately trained [on] when and how to perform seclusions and restraints in a safe manner that would not cause students harm,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit comes about a year and a half after the U.S. Department of Justice found FCPS was systematically misusing seclusion and restraint against students with disabilities.

Seclusion — which was banned in Maryland after the DOJ’s investigation of FCPS — is when educators confine a student alone against their will in a room or area they are not permitted to leave.

Before the statewide ban, seclusion was legal only in cases where educators believed the student posed an immediate, serious threat to themselves or others.

Restraint, which is still legal in emergency situations, is when educators physically restrict a student’s movement.

The DOJ found that FCPS regularly turned to seclusion and restraint to manage non-emergency behaviors by students with disabilities. The investigation covered the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, as well as the first half of the 2019-20 school year.
During that timeframe, FCPS performed more than 10,000 seclusions and restraints on 395 students, according to a data set obtained by The Frederick News-Post through a Public Information Act request.
The DOJ report identified 7,253 restraints and seclusions affecting 125 students over that time period. It remains unclear why the department focused its investigation on those 125 students.

Of the incidents the DOJ identified, 89% occurred at three schools: Rock Creek School and Lewistown and Spring Ridge elementary schools.

Rock Creek serves students with significant mental and physical disabilities. Lewistown and Spring Ridge — both of which Lindberg’s son attended during the time period covered by both her lawsuit and the DOJ probe — were the only two elementary schools in the county at the time to house the Pyramid Program, which serves students with social and emotional needs.


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