The Ohio Department of Education recently wrapped up an investigation into the Columbus school district’s use of seclusion and restraint, and found that the district had done nothing wrong.
But Aimee Gilman, a special education attorney, is unsatisfied with the department’s findings. In a letter to department officials, Gilman writes:
“The descriptions in your findings read like a horror story. Children were repeatedly restrained and secluded, some for as long as 3 hours. And frankly, the tone of your letter suggests that the difficult behaviors are the fault of the child which justifies the district’s response.”
The investigation was a response to complaints from the parents of a special education student in the district.
The report found there was no wrongdoing on the part of the district, and that the student (as well as other special education students in the district) did receive a “free and appropriate public education” as required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Gilman wrote that the investigation should have included interviews with the child’s parent. Without the parent’s input, Gilman argues, the department can’t tell whether the student received a free and appropriate education.
According to the state report, the student’s record was examined and the student’s school was visited by an investigator.
The report did find records showing 371 students had been restrained or secluded 1,829 times.
Some see those numbers alone as a problem. The Columbus Dispatch reports:
“It really shows a district, in many places, that is out of control,” said Sue Tobin, the chief legal counsel for Disability Rights Ohio.
The Columbus Dispatch also reported that the investigator at one point worked for the district.
Complaint investigator Christine Cline’s tenure in Columbus was short — about six months in 2010. And she said through the Education Department spokesman that she didn’t deal at all with seclusion or restraint policies while she was there. The department forbids its investigators from looking into issues in districts for one year after they’ve left. Cline didn’t fall into that category, so she was approved to investigate.
You can read the entire report into the Columbus school district’s use of seclusion rooms and restraints below.