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Department of Education Finds School Restraint and Seclusion Discriminatory

  • Published: 2016-08-05 (Revised/Updated 2016-08-08) : Disability Rights California (disabilityrightsca.org).
  • Synopsis: U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights finds Oakland Unified School District discriminated against student by subjecting him to inappropriate and excessive restraint and seclusion.

Main Document

Quote: "I saw how being restrained negatively affected my son, causing him to cry and have suicidal thoughts. I am happy that other Oakland kids will not have to go through what my son did."

Oakland Unified School District to stop restraining students with disabilities...

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found that the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) discriminated against a student by subjecting him to inappropriate and excessive restraint and seclusion.

Restraint and seclusion are emergency interventions allowed only to prevent a child from imminent serious physical harm.

Read the OCR complaint letter and the Resolution Agreement:

The decision stems from a complaint filed by Disability Rights California on behalf of a boy with autism.

OUSD placed the then nine-year-old student at Anova Center for Education, a non-public school for children with autism in Concord. He was restrained 92 times over 11 months to control his behavior. The practice included two to three adults holding him face down for up to an hour-and-a-half at a time.

OCR’s investigation found that OUSD did not follow the student’s Individualized Education Plan, conduct behavioral assessments or take any meaningful steps to address the excessive use of prone (face down) restraint. Under a settlement agreement with OCR, OUSD agreed to no longer contract with schools that use prone restraint; to develop a protocol to monitor the use of these practices; and to hire an expert to teach staff positive behavior interventions and train on the effects of restraint and seclusion.

"We are deeply troubled that any school district uses dangerous restraint practices and we look forward to ensuring these practices are eliminated in all California schools," said DRC attorney Suge Lee.

Watch a short video featuring Stuart:

"I am thrilled with OCR’s decision," said Bonnie Candell, mother of Stuart, who is now 12-years-old. "I saw how being restrained negatively affected my son, causing him to cry and have suicidal thoughts. I am happy that other Oakland kids will not have to go through what my son did."

Disability Rights California is a non-profit organization created by the governor in 1978 to protect the rights of people with disabilities. Check our website (www.disabilityrightsca.org) and Facebook and Twitter.

Learn More About Restraint and Seclusion - Resource Document:

As education leaders, our first responsibility must be to ensure that schools foster learning in a safe and healthy environment for all our children, teachers, and staff. To support schools in fulfilling that responsibility, the U.S. Department of Education has developed this document that describes 15 principles for States, school districts, schools, parents, and other stakeholders to consider when developing or revising policies and procedures on the use of restraint and seclusion.

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4 : Evidence Supports Effectiveness of Mental Health Programs in Schools : Wolters Kluwer Health.
5 : Still Left Behind - Pathways to Inclusive Education for Girls with Disabilities : Leonard Cheshire Disability.
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