- A Utah charter school program for students with autism has agreed to revise its policies for restraint and seclusion following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, according to a Sept. 7 letter to Spectrum Academy from OCR.
- The investigation found that Spectrum Academy, which operates five schools that include students in K-12, failed to hold required individualized education program meetings to evaluate the impact of repeated use of restraint and seclusion on specific students with disabilities.
- Another concern OCR cited was "significant inaccuracy" in Spectrum Academy's reporting of 2017-18 Civil Rights Data Collection statistics. The academy said it had 50 instances of physical restraint and 33 seclusions, but OCR found 376 instances of restraint and seclusion.
As a result of the investigation, Spectrum Academy has agreed to provide training on revised policies for restraint and seclusion to all teachers, administrators and other members of IEP teams and Section 504 teams.
Additionally, the academy has promised to provide remedies, such as individualized compensatory services, if needed, to students who experienced restraint or seclusion during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years. It also agreed to improve the accuracy of data reporting and will review whether any other students were denied a free, appropriate public education from 2019 to the present.
“Spectrum Academy has committed to important steps to ensure that its emergency use of restraint or seclusion does not deny students with disabilities their federally protected civil rights,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon, in a statement.
In a statement, Denise Marshall, CEO for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, said, “While we applaud OCR’s investigation and subsequent resolution agreement with Spectrum Academy for their abysmal failure to create a positive school experience for their students, unfortunately, this is one more example of the known dangers when students are placed in segregated schools which claim to use seclusion and restraint as ‘treatment’ and then under-report the instances in district, state and federal data."
Marshall added, "The use of these harmful practices clearly results in absolute failure to ensure access to a free, appropriate public education and students deserve better.”