The Frederick County, Maryland, school board will hear recommendations Wednesday for how to improve special education programs from a task force created in the wake of a settlement with the Department of Justice over accusations of discrimination against students with disabilities.
Federal investigators found Frederick County Public Schools improperly restrained and secluded 125 students with disabilities more than 7,250 times in just three years.
The Blue Ribbon Task Force spent hours over the summer discussing recommendations for behavioral intervention for special programs. The task force is comprised of 11 FCPS staff members and 12 parents and other community members.
Angelique Vigliotti said her son was “severely affected by the DOJ investigation.” Vigliotti joined the task force.
“I wanted to give a voice to children that did not have a voice in the special education programs and to the parents that did not have a voice in the special education programs,” said Vigliotti in a video submitted with the findings. “I feel like it might be too late for my child. He’s 17 years old now. He’s almost out of the school system. But there’s a lot of children that aren’t.”
She said she would cry after meetings because they were often with people “that had a hand in facilitating some of the abuse with my child.”
After reaching the settlement late last year, Frederick County public schools stopped using seclusion as a disciplinary tactic and changed its practices on restraint.
“The opportunity was very engaging,” said supervisor of students supports and task force member Janine Stewart, who added, “It was a very restorative moment in my employment. In my opinion, when you get people together from different spaces, different experiences, different levels of passion, you’re always able to come up with some really good ideas and recommendations.”
The task force is expected to offer over a dozen recommendations for special education programs, including:
- Training staff in basic prevention, intervention and de-escalation.
- Professional learning on cognitive assessments, educational scores, sensory profiles and speech assessments to support specially designed instruction.
- A neutral third party to evaluate special education programs.
- Create an advocacy center for families that provides support and best practices for their child.
- Add a behavior support position at every elementary school.