Democrats To Sec. DeVos: Parents Must Know When Seclusion And Restraint Occurs
Murphy, Beyer Lead Effort to Ensure Data Collected at the Education Department on Seclusion and Restraint Practices is Accurate and Comprehensive
After the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report urging the U.S. Department of Education to implement recommendations to address inaccuracies in federal restraint and seclusion data, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and U.S. Representative Don Beyer (VA-8), on Tuesday led a group of 42 members of Congress, including U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), top Democrat on the HELP Committee, and U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (VA-3), Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee, urging the U.S. Department of Education to implement GAO’s recommendations on collecting accurate data on use of seclusion and restraint in schools.
In a letter to Secretary DeVos, the members warned of the inaccuracies with current data and urged that the Department implement recommendations to make the data they report in the upcoming 2017-2018 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) as accurate as possible.
“Far too often, students are injured and are traumatized when seclusion and restraint are used in schools, particularly students with disabilities, students of color, and boys. Parents and students have a right to a clear and accurate understanding of how often seclusion and restraint occurs in their districts and schools,” the members wrote.
The members continued, “We urge you to immediately implement the GAO’s recommendation. We request that you provide an explanation, including a timeline, for how you will implement these recommendations for the 2017-18 CRDC data collection.”
Joining Murphy and Beyer in sending this letter are U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.), and U.S. Representatives Bobby Scott (VA-3), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Danny Davis (IL-7), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Chris Pappas (NH-1), Susie Lee (NV-3), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Abigail Spanberger (VA-7), David Trone (MD-6), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Seth Moulton (MA-6), Chuy Garcia (IL-4), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5), Bobby Rush (IL-1), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Madeleine Dean (PA-4), Donna Shalala (FL-27), Andy Levin (MI-9), Mark Pocan (WI-2), Ruben Gallego (AZ-7), Jason Crow (CO-6), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), David Scott (GA-13), Rick Larsen (WA-2), and Grace Meng (NY-6).
Last year, Murphy, Murray, Beyer and Scott introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act, legislation aimed at protecting students from the dangers of seclusion and restraint practices in school.
A copy of the letter is available here and included below.
The Honorable Betsy DeVos
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202
Dear Secretary DeVos:
We write to urge you to immediately implement the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) four recommendations from their report entitled “Education Should Take Immediate Action to Address Inaccuracies in Federal Restraint and Seclusion Data”. This report revealed alarming underreporting and data inaccuracies in the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) regarding seclusion and restraint incidents. The CRDC is a widely used data set and the federal government has an obligation to ensure its accuracy. Given that the Department is in the process of collecting data for the 2017-18 CRDC, it is paramount that the Department address these recommendations immediately in the current data collection.
While we understand that many districts already submitted their data for the 2017-18 collection, the Department must implement the GAO’s four recommendations for the current data collection, including reminding districts of the distinction between reporting a zero and leaving the cell blank. As the report notes, “While we appreciate that most districts have already submitted data for 2017-18, Education allows districts a significant period of time in which to correct errors.” Thus, there is still a window for districts to correct any errors and improve data accuracy before any final publication next year. The recommendations must be made to ensure the 2017-18 data is accurate given GAO’s findings; otherwise, the Department will knowingly be publishing inaccurate data. Additionally, if these issues are not addressed now, it will be years before these reforms can be made as, after 2020, the CRDC will not be published again until 2022.
We appreciate that the Department is conducting compliance reviews, data quality reviews, and providing technical assistance to schools, but we cannot afford to compromise the integrity of this current data collection by failing to address the same quality concerns that have plagued past data collections. Far too often, students are injured and are traumatized when seclusion and restraint are used in schools, particularly students with disabilities, students of color, and boys. Parents and students have a right to a clear and accurate understanding of how often seclusion and restraint occurs in their districts and schools.
We urge you to immediately implement the GAO’s recommendation. We request that you provide an explanation, including a timeline, for how you will implement these recommendations for the 2017-18 CRDC data collection. Please provide this explanation and timeline to use by 2 WEEKS AFTER POSTMARK.