Southern Indiana school settles disability investigation over restraints

A school system based in Princeton that was investigated after a complaint that it used seclusion and restraints on students with disabilities has settled with the United States Department of Justice.

An investigation was conducted under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act into the North Gibson School Corporation after complaints were made that it inappropriately secluded and restrained students with emotional and behavioral disabilities in the district’s self-contained classrooms.

The investigation confirmed that students as young as 5 years old were improperly and repeatedly secluded and restrained, resulting in days, and sometimes weeks, of lost instructional time, the department said in a press release.

The school district also was accused of regularly sending students with disabilities home early from school, placing them on abbreviated school days and assigning them to homebound instruction.

“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.”

Cooperating fully throughout the investigation, the school district voluntarily suspended its use of seclusion rooms before the investigation was completed and agreed to take the steps outlined in the settlement agreement.

Under that agreement, the school district will take proactive steps to ensure that its practices do not discriminate against students with disabilities by, among other things, changing its policies to prohibit use of seclusion rooms; reporting all instances of restraint and review whether they were justified; taking steps to avoid placing students with emotional and behavioral disabilities on an abbreviated school day or homebound instruction and document those steps.

Additionally, the agreement says that the school district will 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 with the agreement and Title II of the ADA.

“Students with disabilities, like all students, belong in classrooms where they can learn — not locked away or otherwise segregated from their peers. When school districts improperly seclude or restrain students with disabilities, they inflict grievous harm on some of America’s most vulnerable children,” said assistant attorney general Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division.

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. 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.”

Bloomington attorney Jeremy Dilts of Carson LLP, legal counsel for the NGSC, said in a statement that he is not authorized to provide a comment of any kind on the settlement agreement at this time.

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