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Federal government says Virginia schools restrained, isolated students

(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Education has concluded that two Virginia public schools denied the right of education to emotionally disabled students after discovering teachers had frequently secluded and restrained them.

The department wrote in a July 29 letter of findings that it had entered an accord with the two public schools in Prince William County, PACE East and PACE West, to correct the problems.

The schools are for students with serious emotional and behavioral problems. The department's investigation followed a complaint filed in 2012.

According to the letter from the department's Office for Civil Rights, school employees in some cases physically forced students to lie face down on the floor or put them into solitary padded areas.

Investigators found that both schools denied students appropriate public education by failing to reevaluate them to determine if they needed more or different aids and service.

The investigators blamed the failure to reevaluate on the frequent use of restraint, seclusion and the removal of students from classrooms to an isolated area.

The frequent use of the practices, described in the letter as a "one-size fits all behavior management approach," caused students to miss classes and school work.

During the 2012-2013 school year at PACE West, 29 students were restrained or secluded a total of 59 times. That same year at PACE East, 31 students were restrained or secluded a total of 154 times.

School policy allows staff to physically restrain disruptive, aggressive or violent students in emergency situations.

The department said the schools broke policy by failing to notify parents when students were restrained or secluded.

In a statement of resolution, the Prince William County Public Schools said it would review records of students who were restrained or secluded more than once to find an alternative.

Teachers and counselors will also be trained to identify students that require reevaluation.

The Washington Post newspaper first reported the letter and resolution on Wednesday.

(Reporting by John Clarke in Annapolis, Maryland; Editing by Ian Simpson and Eric Beech)

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