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IDEA Complaint Decision 12-010

On March 19, 2012, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Racine Unified School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2011-12 school year, utilized improper restraint procedures and improperly excluded the student from school.

The student attends an elementary school in the district. As the school year progressed, the student’s behaviors became increasingly unsafe. The behaviors exhibited included running, hitting, kicking, biting, and throwing objects. In December 2011, district staff requested an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting to address these behaviors. District staff stated that given some of the behaviors, which could become dangerous, it was anticipated restraint might be used, and the use of restraint as a last resort was incorporated into the student’s IEP. The IEP team also incorporated additional positive behavioral supports, including breaks and a reward system.

The December IEP team meeting was held in the morning, and later that day, restraint was used with the student for the first time. The teacher who used the restraint was appropriately trained, and used the child control position as taught. The incident was appropriately logged. The behavior precipitating its use was jumping off tables, running, and acting aggressively towards staff. Other students in the room were removed in order to prevent possible injury.

Between January and March 2012, restraint was used during seven different incidents. Each time, it was used as a last resort when there was imminent danger to the student and to others. Each incident was logged, and it was used only until it was no longer necessary for maintaining safety. As soon as the student became calm, the restraint hold was released. On two different occasions, inappropriate holds were used. On one occasion, it was because the staff member was a substitute and had not received appropriate training. However, another staff was present who was trained and who could have applied the hold. On the other occasion, the staff member had been recently trained, but did not apply the correct technique.

District staff employed several positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address the student’s behavioral needs, including the use of a consistent visual schedule, sensory breaks, calm voices, providing choices and rewards, removing students from the room when necessary for calming, and minimizing transitions. The district’s consultant in autism also worked with staff to ensure the positive behavioral interventions were being used consistently and effectively.

Throughout this time, several IEP team meetings were held to continue to address the student’s behavior, and the student’s IEP was revised based on the needs of the student. In February 2012, the IEP team determined a one-to-one aide was required to assist the student throughout the day. On March 1, 2012, the IEP team decided to change the student’s placement to another school within the district, because the team believed the escalation in behavior was partly attributable to the student’s relationship with another student. The parents had also requested the IEP team to consider a change in placement. An aide was also provided to ride the bus with the student to assist to and from school. The district provided support to the student to assist in transitioning to the new school, and there have been fewer behavioral incidents since this change.

The district implemented the department’s directives on the “Appropriate Use of Seclusion and Physical Restraint in Special Education Programs,” by including the use of restraint in the student’s IEP and using it as a last resort for safety and for only as long as necessary, logging each incident, moving other students out when necessary, and providing training to staff. However, on two occasions, inappropriate holds were used. As corrective action, department staff will work with the district to address and review training needs.

A few times, the parents were asked to pick the student up at the end of the day, because the student refused to get on the bus. On one occasion, district staff contacted the parents and requested the child be picked up due to behaviors. On three to four other occasions, the parents thought it would be best to take the student home because of an inability to attend that day. The district did not improperly exclude the student from school.

All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, but in no case more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint. You may contact Patricia Williams, Special Education Team, at (608) 267-3720 if you have any questions about this decision or for technical assistance.

//signed CST 5/15/2012
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support