On March 30, 2015, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Eau Claire School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2014-15 school year, properly implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP) and behavior intervention plan (BIP), and utilized improper seclusion procedures.
The student’s IEP contains a detailed BIP and multiple supplementary aids and services designed to increase the student’s ability to self-regulate and to support the student during periods of behavioral difficulty. Included among the supplementary aids and services is access to headphones to reduce noise, daily, across all school settings. The BIP indicates the student will be provided behavior management tools across all school settings.
During the 2014-15 school year, the student experienced several periods of behavioral difficulty during which district staff implemented the BIP. During a March 2015 incident, the student was directed out of the general education classroom to a resource room to allow the student time and space to de-escalate in accordance with the student’s BIP. The resource room was noisy and the student requested headphones. No headphones were available for the student to use. The student’s IEP was not properly implemented during this incident.
Under Wisconsin law, “seclusion” is defined as “the involuntary confinement of a student, apart from other students, in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving.” The use of seclusion in public schools is prohibited unless a student’s behavior presents a clear, present, and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or to others, and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible. Seclusion must be used no longer than necessary to resolve the risk to the physical safety of the student or others. District staff must maintain constant supervision of the student, either by remaining in the room or area with the student or by observing the pupil through a window. Any room used for seclusion must be free of objects or fixtures that may injure the student and must not have any doors capable of being locked. The student must have adequate access to bathroom facilities, drinking water, necessary medication, and regularly scheduled meals. Directing a disruptive student to temporarily separate himself or herself from the activity in the classroom to regain control is not considered seclusion unless the student is confined to an area from which she or he is physically prevented from leaving. Whenever a student’s IEP team reasonably anticipates physical restraint or seclusion may be used with a student with a disability, the use must be clearly specified in the student’s IEP, and the IEP must include positive behavioral interventions, supports, and strategies based on a functional behavioral assessment (FBA).
One incident of seclusion occurred in March 2015. Following a period of behavioral difficulty, staff directed the student out of the general education classroom to an empty classroom to allow the student time and space to de-escalate, in accordance with the student’s BIP. The student’s behavioral difficulties continued to escalate, creating a clear, present, and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or to others. Staff physically prevented the student from leaving the room, at which point staff determined the removal constituted seclusion. Staff remained in the classroom with the student at all times. During the period of seclusion the student tipped over classroom furnishings including tables and chairs, and attempted to damage a computer. While the student did not sustain injury during this time, the room contained objects that could have caused injury to the student. The classroom door was not locked during the incident; however the door is capable of being locked. When the student’s behavioral difficulties subsided, the period of seclusion ended. Documentation and notification requirements were properly followed. The student’s IEP does not clearly specify the use of seclusion. Seclusion has been used with the student before. The student’s IEP contains several positive behavioral interventions, supports, and strategies based on an FBA. The district did not follow all required procedures when seclusion was utilized.
As corrective action, the district must submit to the department a plan to ensure the student’s supplementary aids and services will be implemented as described in the IEP. The district must conduct an IEP team meeting within 30 days to revise the IEP to clearly specify the use of seclusion. The district must submit a copy of the revised IEP within five days after the IEP team meeting is held. In addition, the district must submit to the department a plan to ensure all rooms in the district used for seclusion are free of objects and fixtures that may injure students, and that all doors to such rooms are incapable of being locked.
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.
//signed CST 5/2/2015
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support