U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights settles review of Denton Independent School District’s restraint and seclusion compliance in Texas

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) declared today that the Denton Independent School District in Texas has reached a resolution agreement to guarantee that its restraint policies do not impede students with disabilities from receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Upon review, OCR found several issues related to the district’s compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II) concerning restraint practices.

Notably, OCR discovered that students later identified as having disabilities were subjected to multiple restraints before the district initiated assessments for special education needs. For instance, one student was restrained 18 times before being classified as a student with a disability eligible for appropriate support that could eliminate the need for restraint. OCR also raised concerns about the frequency and duration of restraints, citing cases where the district restrained at least 12 students more than 10 times each and one student 43 times. The documentation often failed to consider how restraints impacted students’ access to FAPE.

In addition, the review revealed that School Resource Officers (SROs) in the district restrained students with disabilities without proper training on restraint in educational settings or understanding of FAPE obligations. This inconsistency was evident in SRO involvement in restraints without probable cause for criminal activity, contradicting the district’s guidelines to involve SROs only in criminal matters.

The district’s documentation of restraint incidents was found to have significant gaps, impeding its ability to evaluate compliance with Section 504 and Title II. Many restraint forms lacked crucial details, such as staff names, restraint duration, or behaviors leading to restraint, hindering the reassessment of students’ educational and behavioral needs. The inconsistency in documenting SRO restraints raised doubts about the accuracy and evaluation of such incidents.

Moreover, there was a concern that the district did not provide clear notice to parents/guardians about individuals overseeing compliance with Section 504 and Title II, limiting their ability to request necessary re-evaluations for their children to secure FAPE.

Notably, no incidents of student seclusion were reported by the district or identified in OCR’s investigation.

The resolution agreement outlines specific actions the district will take, including convening committees to re-evaluate students who may have been denied FAPE due to restraint practices, revising restraint policies, developing accurate restraint incident records, and ensuring comprehensive staff training on restraint and FAPE requirements.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon emphasized the importance of Denton Independent School District’s commitments in ensuring students with disabilities receive their federal right to education without being hindered by restraint practices.

The OCR website provides access to the letter addressed to Denton Independent School District and the resolution agreement for further details.

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