U.S Department of Justice Reaches Settlement Agreement with Anova Center for Education to Improve Best Practices in Educating Students with Behavioral Health Needs

Press Release
Photo of a classroom empty of children with school desks in a row.

(Concord, CA) On January 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a settlement agreement with Anova Center for Education (Anova), a non-public school for students with autism in the Bay Area.

This settlement resolves a discrimination complaint Disability Rights California (DRC) filed in 2016 on behalf of a then ten-year-old student with autism with DOJ and the U.S Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The disability-based discrimination complaint alleged that the student was held on the ground in a prone restraint 77 times over the course of several months. In addition, the complaint described how the student experienced lost instructional time and educational opportunities and experienced a hostile educational environment due to the excessive use of restraint.

Students with disabilities such as autism and mental health disabilities are particularly vulnerable to trauma and injury due to restraint. (Protect Children’s Safety and Dignity: Recommendations on Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Report) “Students with disabilities should receive equal educational opportunities, and California schools should address behavior needs using proven positive, effective, and safe behavioral interventions, instead of resorting to restraint and seclusion in response to problem behavior,” said Suge Lee, managing attorney with Disability Rights California.

Under the settlement agreement, Anova agreed to revise its policies and procedures for behavioral interventions of students with disabilities.  Some of the revisions include:

  • Developing a new policy requiring staff to meet after each use of restraint to consider alternative interventions that could be used prior to the use of restraint.
  • Hiring an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance Coordinator related to behavior interventions.
  • Submitting monitoring data to DOJ for three years.
  • Training staff on providing individualized supports and interventions.
“Making sure teachers and staff are trained in de-escalation techniques is a critical piece of ensuring that dangerous restraint practices are not used in California’s schools,” says Suge Lee, managing attorney at Disability Rights California.

In 2016 OCR made findings that Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) failure to address the excessive use of restraints violated the students' rights under the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. (Full resolution agreement) (OCR Complaint Letter). OCR also investigated and found 92 separate instances of restraint, more than the number of incidents alleged in the original complaint, which alleged 77 instances of restraint over several months. 

Significant Court Documents

 

 

Disability Rights California (DRC) - Is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of DRC is to advance the rights, dignity, equal opportunities, and choices for all people with disabilities. For more information visit: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org.