WASHINGTON – In response to a non-partisan government report confirming systemic problems in the reporting of seclusion and restraint in schools, U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa are pushing the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to immediately take action to ensure data is reported accurately.

In late 2017, Ernst and Grassley reached out to the ED Office of Inspector General (OIG) about allegations of seclusion and restraint misreporting in Iowa school districts. The Senators pressed the OIG to investigate these specific instances, and they requested a broader investigation to determine whether misreporting of seclusion and restraint is a systemic problem. In May 2018, ED notified the Senators that it had taken action to address instances of misreporting in Iowa.

In January, ED announced a new initiative to “address the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion to protect children with disabilities” and “ensure compliance with federal laws.”

“Iowa’s children deserve a safe environment to learn and grow. Based on what we’ve seen in the past about misreporting of restraint and seclusion in Iowa schools, this latest report isn’t surprising, but it could be vital to ensuring accurate reporting moving forward,” Ernst said. “There is clearly a systemic problem, and we need to get to the bottom of it to ensure our students are safe and the reporting on these tactics in our schools is accurate.”

“Children deserve a safe learning environment. Events that disrupt that safety need to be immediately and accurately reported,” Grassley said. “Without transparent reporting, no solutions can be identified. That puts children at risk. The recent GAO report confirms what I’ve suspected – that there has been systematic underreporting of circumstances involving restraint and/or seclusion of students. The Department of Education must take decisive steps to address reporting problems and increase overall transparency surrounding this issue.”

Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sent a letter to Congress revealing widespread inaccuracies in ED data on seclusion and restraint as a result of systemic misreporting in school districts around the country. The GAO outlined specific recommended actions for the ED’s Office of Civil Rights to take to ensure reporting from school districts is accurate.

In a letter to ED this week, Senators Ernst and Grassley wrote, “We respectfully urge you to immediately implement GAO’s recommendations and take additional steps to ensure school districts provide accurate seclusion and restraint data.” Click here for a PDF version of the Senators’ letter.

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