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Investigation into Virginia Public Schools' Use of Seclusion and Physical Restraint

The U.S. Department of Education has singled out two Virginia schools for routinely putting students in isolation or physically restraining them in response to misbehavior, and a recent investigation by ProPublica identified Virginia as one of several states that have few safeguards for students.  

It’s not illegal for Virginia Public Schools to put students in isolation or to physically restrain them in emergency situations when other techniques have failed, but after a comprehensive investigation of two special education schools in Prince William County, the U.S. Department of Education says such actions are ineffective and inappropriate.  

Investigative reporters at ProPublica also singled out Virginia as a state where students can be confined or restrained at will. Michelle Harris says her 10-year-old son, who is autistic and suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, was restrained after an incident at his elementary school.

“I still don’t know to this day what happened.  He tells me something happened in the lunch room and he got sent to the office.  A police officer and his speech teacher had him in the office face down with his arms behind his back and they were kneeling on his back - two grown men, and he was nine at the time.”

The Department of Education probe found parents were not given consistent and adequate notice when their kids were restrained or placed in a separate room.  The two schools in question are now working to resolve issues raised by the investigation.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief