The Folsom Cordova Unified School District has agreed to changes after findings from a recently completed federal review found that the district was previously in violation when came the use of restraint and seclusion in regards to students with disabilities. 

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According to a letter of resolution from the United States Department of Education Office, (USDEO) for Civil Rights, the local violations consisted of restraining special needs students for several hours and placing students in isolated rooms.

The findings reportedly came after a review that followed an incident in 2018 when a the USDEO performed a review following the death of a student in El Dorado Hills. 

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That student was Max Benson a 13-year-old autistic student who was enrolled at Guiding Hands School, a private school that was part of the Davis Joint Unified School District and served 140 students at the time the incident took place in 2018, seven of them from the FCUSD, according to the report.  

At the time of the incident, the district reportedly offered alternative locations to its students that were enrolled at the facility. 

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Following the time of Benson’s death that came after being restrained by a member of the school staff. Three staff members were indicted in the case and the thereafter, the USDEO began a review of 20 different school districts, including FCUSD. 

According to the letter of resolution, the review found that the district infrequently held Individualized Education Program meetings for students after they were restrained or secluded.” It also found that the district did not offer students their right to, “free, appropriate public education through IEPs and Behavior Intervention Plans.”

The review also reported that proper record taking did not take place when students were placed in isolation or, “time away,” as they reference. 

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The review found additional incidents at Folsom Cordova that violated policy, one of which was when a student was reportedly restrained 22 times in a school year. Another noted violation was when a student had been placed in isolation in a focus room for a collective total of 38 hours. 

As part of the school district’s agreement with OCR, it will offer IEP meetings for families whose students were restrained during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years at non-public or district schools. 

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According to letter for the letter of resolution, the FCUSD has agreed to make a number of policy changes to be in compliance. Those changes are as follows: 

  • Revising and distributing to district staff and NPS employees its policies, procedures, and forms for restraint and seclusion.
  • Ensuring that NPS staff serving district students are trained on the revised policies.
  • Providing individual remedies for students who experienced restraint or seclusion during the review period by convening their IEP or Section 504 team to determine if compensatory services are needed, and if so, by timely providing such services.
  • Offer IEP meetings for families whose students were restrained during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years at non-public or district schools. 
  • Ensuring a process to create and maintain records about its use of restraint and seclusion.
  • Providing training on the revised policies and Section 504 FAPE requirements to teachers, administrators, and other members of IEP and Section 504 teams.
  • Conducting a review to determine whether any other district students were denied a FAPE due to the district’s or an NPS’s use of restraint or seclusion from 2019 to the present, and to implement responsive remedies based on this review. And,
  • Implementing a program to monitor the use of restraint and seclusion with students in district schools and NPSs to safeguard their rights under Section 504 and Title II.

Last month, a teacher with the FCUSD was placed on paid leave after reports that she restrained and slapped a 5-year-old autistic student at Williamson Elementary School in Rancho Cordova. 

The student’s parents removed him from enrollment at the school, citing additional safety concerns prior to the report of the restraint incident.  The aforementioned review and findings did not include this recent incident as it took place prior to its report and pending investigation. 

You can read the complete letter for the USDEO here.