The Department of Justice today secured a settlement agreement with Florida’s Okaloosa County School District to resolve an investigation into allegations of physical and verbal abuse and discriminatory use of isolation and restraint against students with disabilities. announced.
The department’s investigation found that the school district violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its response to known physical and verbal abuse and inappropriate isolation and restraint of students with disabilities. concluded. School districts quarantined and restrained students before attempting appropriate behavior management or de-escalation strategies first. As a result of these practices, some students with disabilities were injured and others lost hours of class time. Under the settlement agreement, the Okaloosa County School District voluntarily agreed to strengthen its complaints procedures and internal investigations, continue its ban on segregation, reform its restraint practices, and improve staff training.
Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said: “Schools must provide appropriate educational support for students with disabilities and must not rely on practices that are physically or mentally harmful. We will vigorously pursue isolation allegations and will not stand by when student rights are violated.”
“We are working with our colleagues in the Civil Rights Division to fight discrimination against students with disabilities in schools,” said Jason R. Coody, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. “We also agreed that the Okaloosa County School District would remediate the problems uncovered by the department’s investigation by employing effective, non-discriminatory tools and protocols in handling behavioral problems in schools. I commend you for that.”
The county fully cooperated with the investigation. Under the settlement agreement, the school district will implement reforms to end discrimination against students with disabilities. Districts will, among other things:
- Continue to prohibit the use of Quarantine.
- Limit the use of constraints.
- Clarify and improve crisis response team procedures and post-quarantine procedures.
- Report all instances of restraint and assess whether they were justified.
- Designate trained staff to collect and analyze restraint data and oversee the development of appropriate behavioral intervention plans.
- Review procedures for students with disabilities who are bound on buses or whose behavior may manifest during transportation.
- Strengthen multi-layered systems and supports in all schools.
- Reform district complaints procedures to improve district investigations into allegations of employee abuse or inappropriate use of restraint or isolation.
- Strengthening employee hiring and transfer practices.
- Provide training and resources to help schools implement the agreement.When
- Appoint an administrator to oversee the school district’s related services (such as parapro, transportation and behavior management staff) and the use and review of restraints at the school to ensure that the school district is in compliance with the Agreement and Title II of the ADA .
Enforcing Title II of the ADA is a priority for the Office of Civil Rights. Additional information about the Office of Civil Rights is available on the website at www.justice.gov/crt. Additionally, additional information about the activities of the Educational Opportunities Division is available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/educational-opportunities-section. For more information on the work of Sections under the ADA to Combat Inadequate Segregation in Schools, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/schoolseclusion.
To report a potential civil rights violation, please visit www.civilrights.justice.gov/.
See agreement below.