Kentucky Dept of Ed to Review School Restraint Policies

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky will be receiving an on-site review from the state education department, and the inspection will be centered on the management practices of the district – specifically, the incomplete reporting of incidents that included restraint and seclusion of students.

WAVE-TV’s John Paxton reports that state education commissioner Stephen Pruitt advised JCPS that his department would be visiting schools in the district to investigate the reporting procedures concerning restraint and how the issue is managed. He explained that complaints had been sent to his office alleging that employees were not being trained properly regarding restraints.

Donna Hargens, the superintendent of JCPS, says the district welcomes the state’s support:

“I also welcome the department’s management review of our district, which will help us continuously improve and continue focusing on putting the children of Jefferson County first,” she said in an email statement.

The release of these plans comes several days after it was determined that a Binet School for Children with Learning Disabilities student was abused at the school in 2014.

Brennan Long, the student, is autistic. When he was placed into a “cradle assist” by school employees he suffered life-threatening injuries. Both of his legs were fractured and Long was unable to walk for over a month. Other entities investigated the incident, including the district’s officials, the Louisville Metro Police Department, and Child Protective Services. The findings were inconclusive.

However, the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel informed police that it felt the investigation should be reopened. The child’s family received $1.75 million from JCPS in a settlement.

Long’s father, Brian, told WAVE-TV the review might help the district create new and necessary changes, but he added that he and his family had not seen the district leadership do the right things up to this point.

Earlier this year, the district admitted it had not been reporting restraint incidents and seclusions to the state in the proper manner. During the 2014-2015 academic year, JCPS asserted that only 174 seclusions and restraints occurred, although the actual number was approximately 4,400. The district said this mistake was caused by a technical issue, but that it had always sent the correct numbers to the federal government.

The Kentucky Department of Education has been told to focus on the restraint and seclusion problem and to complete a review of management methods. If “critically ineffective or inefficient management” is found, a full management audit will be necessary. The result of the examination could be followed by a state takeover of the JCPS.

A regulation adopted in 2013 instructed that restraint and seclusion techniques should be used only if the behavior of a student “poses imminent danger or physical harm to themselves or others.” It added that all seclusions and physical restraints must be recorded and kept on the student’s permanent education record.

Pruitt explained that JCPS retains a separate system of documentation of students that is not included in the education department’s files, reports Antoinette Konz for WDBR-TV.

“This created a situation where you had an internal database that was not communicating with an external database,” Hargens said in March. “The solution at the time was to have the reports entered into the two separate systems.”

The commissioner wrote in a statement that JCPS has to get their data collecting, managing, and preserving straightened out because it informs district officials of any cultural issues involved in incidents or of individual schools that could be putting students at risk.

When the school district begins to use the state data collection, the results could include “cost savings to Kentucky taxpayers” and the elimination of the possibility of mistakes due to disparate data sets for the same data, according to WFPL Public Radio.

Allison Ross of the Courier-Journal quotes from a report in 2013 written by the Kentucky Department of Education:

“The evidence is clear – restraint and seclusion are ineffective behavior modification techniques that have potentially deadly consequences. The evidence is equally clear that reducing or eliminating restraint and seclusion produces positive outcomes for students, staff and schools.”