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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Maryland County Settles Case on Seclusion and Restraint

A December 1 release from the US Department of Justice:
The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland announced today a settlement agreement with the Frederick County Public School District in Maryland to address the discriminatory use of seclusion and restraint against students with disabilities.

The department’s investigation found that the school district unnecessarily and repeatedly secluded and restrained students as young as five years old in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the settlement, Frederick County will end the use of seclusion, overhaul its restraint practices, and train staff on use of appropriate behavioral interventions for students with disabilities.

The investigation, opened in October 2020, revealed thousands of incidents of seclusion and restraint in just two and a half school years. Although students with disabilities make up only 10.8% of students enrolled in the district, every single student the district secluded was a student with disabilities, as were 99% — all but one — of the students the district restrained. The district routinely resorted to seclusion and restraint in non-emergency situations instead of using appropriate behavior interventions tailored to individual students’ needs. The investigation found that these practices often intensified students’ distress, with some students engaging in self-harm and showing other signs of trauma while in seclusion.


The school district cooperated fully throughout the investigation. Under the settlement agreement, the school district will take proactive steps to ensure that its practices do not discriminate against students with disabilities. The district will, among other things:
  • prohibit the use of seclusion;
  • report all instances of restraint and evaluate whether they were justified;
  • designate trained staff to collect and analyze restraint data and oversee the creation of appropriate behavior intervention plans;
  • deliver appropriate training and resources to help schools implement the agreement;
  • design and implement procedures for handling complaints about restraint;
  • offer counseling and compensatory education services to students with disabilities who were subjected to the district’s discriminatory practices; and
  • hire an administrator to supervise school-based staff and ensure the district’s compliance with the agreement and Title II of the ADA.
Cory Smith at WRC-TV:
“When you look at those numbers, you can’t help but think, this is not just an issue, this is a civil rights issue,” said Guy Stephens, founder of the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint.

Stephens started the organization after his son, who has autism, was secluded and restrained in Calvert County, Maryland. The practices cause trauma and don’t make classrooms safer, he said.

“The more a kid is traumatized, the less they feel safe in school, the more likely they are to exhibit distressed behaviors. So you create this cycle where you’re targeting the same kid over and over again,” Stephens said