A bipartisan group of Loudoun County state lawmakers have sent a letter to Virginia Department of Education Secretary Atif Qarni asking the department to investigate Loudoun County Public Schools' use of seclusion and restraint against students with special needs.
State Sens. Barbara Favola (D-31st), Jill Vogel (R-27th) and Jennifer Wexton (D-33rd) and Dels. John Bell (D-87th), Jennifer Boysko (D-86th), Karrie Delaney (D-67th), Wendy Gooditis (D-10th), Kathleen Murphy (D-34th) and David Reid (D-32nd) signed the letter.
LCPS employs restraint and seclusion when students pose a danger to themselves or those around them, according to LCPS policy, and administrators are supposed to notify parents when these practices are used.
But parents have said the guidelines aren't being followed. They say they haven't been notified and the practices aren't being used in emergencies but to discipline their children.
"We are very concerned about this practice, as it is not constructive for the student or the classroom. Parents need to understand that LCPS is following a standard process for addressing children with special needs and students deserve more respect than to be locked in makeshift isolation rooms. This is not constructive for the students' education or personal development," the lawmakers' letter read.
In a prepared statement, LCPS officials said the school system apologizes for any situation in which the guidelines were not followed. LCPS says it initiated contact with the VDOE “more than a week ago to provide information regarding this matter and has reached out to the department again today.”
“LCPS advocates a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) approach to addressing the needs of all students, including students with behavior challenges,” the school system's statement read. “In emergency situations, LCPS authorizes the use of seclusion practices to manage student behavior within very specific guidelines.
The school system said “all children have the inherent right to be treated with dignity and respect, and school personnel bear the responsibility of ensuring that our educational programs, policies, and procedures safeguard this right and maintain a safe and supportive learning environment that promotes a climate for success. This right extends to all children, including those who require more specialized behavioral and educational supports. . . When managing student behavior, physical restraint and seclusion are safety procedures used as a last resort when appropriate alternatives have failed and the student is an immediate danger to him/herself and/or others.”
Correction:This story has been updated to include Del. Karrie Delaney, who also signed the letter.