AP NEWS

Federal agency reviews restraint, seclusion at Fargo schools

April 2, 2019

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The use of seclusion and restraint on children with disabilities at Fargo public schools is under review as part of a nationwide evaluation of compliance with federal laws.

The Fargo Public School District must provide two years of data on its practices by Friday, and the review could take up to a year.

The Department of Education asked its Office of Civil Rights in January to evaluate the use of restraint and seclusion in one school district in every state, so the review doesn’t mean Fargo is necessarily at fault. But Brenda Ruehl, a disability advocate with the North Dakota Protection and Advocacy Project, said there has been a surge this year in parent complaints about the treatment of upper grade and middle school students. Most of the complaints involve the restraint of students on the autism spectrum, she said.

Ruehl said that research indicates there are better approaches to handling complex behaviors.

“Seclusion and restraint cause trauma, so it’s ineffective. It’s so dangerous to the student and other students and staff. It’s traumatic for everybody,” Ruehl said. “Restraint should be a last resort, and it should only be in the event of imminent danger to oneself or others.”

North Dakota permits the use of seclusion and restraint by trained staff, but not as a form of punishment, and there is no law requiring districts to gather and report data on its use, Ruehl said. Fargo does have guidelines, “but unfortunately, they don’t always follow their own,” she said.

Samantha Stewart, a Parent Advocate with North Dakota for Integration and Inclusion, said the review is a step in the right direction.

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Information from: KVLY-TV, http://www.valleynewslive.com