Scott, Murray, DeLauro Release Report Revealing DeVos’ Failure to Collect Usable Data to Protect Children from Excessive or Discriminatory Seclusion and Restraint

Government Accountability Office (GAO) report reveals that Department of Education data does not accurately report if the use of seclusion and restraint is excessive or discriminatory

WASHINGTON - Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, released a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealing that the Department of Education (Department) failed to collect quality data on the use of the seclusion and restraint in PK-12 schools. According to the report, “Education Needs to Address Significant Issues with its Restraint and Seclusion Data,” the data was so poor that the Department could not accurately report if the practices were excessive or discriminatory.

 “Every school should be a safe and welcoming place where all students can get a quality education. Unfortunately, this report reveals that the Education Department’s lack of clear guidance for reporting seclusion and restraint practices is a major obstacle to understanding a problem that is putting thousands of students and staff members in danger,” said Chairman Scott. “The Department should immediately implement the GAO’s recommendations. Without this data, schools, parents, and policymakers will not have the reliable information we need to provide for the safety of students and staff.” 

“It is extremely alarming that even though we know that students, particularly students with disabilities and students of color, are being secluded and physically restrained at school, the Department of Education still can’t provide us with quality reporting to understand the scope of the problem and begin to solve it,” said Senator Murray. “The Department needs to implement GAO’s recommendations without delay so we have complete, accurate data. But this is just the first step—I’ll keep fighting to protect students from seclusion and restraint.”

 “GAO’s new report on the lack of quality restraint and seclusion data from school districts across the country is deeply troubling,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “These practices may very well be disproportionately impacting both students of color and those with disabilities in violation of federal civil rights laws. As policy makers, we will conduct aggressive oversight to ensure we have visibility into harmful, traumatizing practices and hold school districts accountable for abuses. The Education Department needs to immediately implement GAO’s recommendations so that we have the data we need to protect our youngsters.”

The Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) is required to collect data on the use of seclusion and restraint—the practices of confining or physically restraining students—in order to make sure schools are not unnecessarily or excessively harming children.  In a 2018 appropriations bill, the lawmakers jointly secured bipartisan language requiring GAO to review the data collection, in order to ensure it is accurate and complete.

However, the report shows that the Department of Education’s data does not provide accurate information that can be used to determine if seclusion and restraint are being used excessively or discriminatorily. Additionally, the report finds that loopholes and mistakes in collection have led to rampant underreporting, as well as many school districts erroneously reporting zero incidences, without any verification from the Department of Education. The report also noted that the lack of clarity on how seclusion and restraint are defined by the Department causes confusion and inaccuracy in school- and district-level reporting.

“The Department of Education’s quality control processes for its Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) restraint and exclusion data are largely ineffective or do not exist,” stated the report. “Absent more effective rules to improve data quality, determining the frequency and prevalence of these practices will remain difficult. Further, Education will continue to lack information that could help it determine whether the use of these practices may be excessive, discriminatory, or both.”

The report provides six recommendations to the Department of Education:

  • revise quality control rules to affirm any school district that reports zero incidences;
  • develop quality control rules to identify schools districts that report very low incidences;
  • develop quality control rules to identify school districts that report very high incidences;
  • apply quality control rules to identify illogical data to all schools regardless of incidents reported;
  • identify and address factors underlying misreporting and underreporting; and
  • clarify the definitions of seclusion and restraint.  

The full text of the report, “Education Needs to Address Significant Quality Issues with its Seclusion and Restraint Data,” can be found here.


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