After federal review, HCS makes changes to services for students with disabilities | Education | #Education

Horry County Schools is revising its procedures for using physical restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities after the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recommended reforms.

The OCR review, which was opened in January 2019, examined whether the district’s approach followed federal policy. Federal officials found HCS’s procedures resulted in lost instructional time, lackluster documentation and possible improper use of the two techniques.

The review stemmed from a 2019 initiative by then-U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to address the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in the nation’s schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 

This proactive approach, the USDOE said, aimed to protect students with disabilities by providing technical assistance and support to schools, districts, and state education agencies, and strengthening enforcement activities. 

Federal officials reviewed a variety of district records, including staff training documents, restraint and seclusion logs, and debriefing logs for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, according to a letter from OCR to HCS Superintendent Rick Maxey.  

According to Horry County Schools, the OCR conducts nationwide compliance reviews of restraint and seclusion rooms in public schools, and HCS was selected for an onsite visit.

Site visits to area schools were part of the review, and 21 staff members were interviewed from Waccamaw Elementary, Forestbrook Elementary, Whittemore Park Middle, St. James Intermediate and the Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC).

Those schools were selected, according to the OCR’s letter, because they had the most reported incidents involving the use of restraint and seclusion.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the district reported 173 restraint incidents involving 39 students with disabilities at eight different schools, according to public records. The same year, 94 seclusion incidents occurred at nine schools with 31 students.

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