240 students secluded, restrained for disciplinary reasons at Wake County Public Schools in 2023

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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
New report sheds light on discipline policy at WCPSS
Wake County Public Schools is re-evaluating its disciplinary policy following a lawsuit about a student being repeatedly shut in a closet.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- In response to a settled lawsuit concerning a Wake County Public Schools student being restrained and secluded in a closet, the school district is re-evaluating its disciplinary policy.

North Carolina law allows, as a last resort, for students to be secluded or restrained in schools to prevent injury, fighting or property damage.

Wake County Board of Education received a new report Wednesday that found more than 240 students had been secluded or restrained as a form of discipline between July and December of 2023.

Going forward, this type of report will happen twice a year in order to increase transparency about this type of discipline. Staff will also look into reporting practices, training and incident reporting when it comes to disciplining students.

The report is a direct result of the recent settlement of a lawsuit first filed in 2021 by the Pease family. They sued the district on behalf of their child, claiming the student, who has learning disabilities and anxiety, was physically restrained by school administrators at Scotts Ridge Elementary School and repeatedly secluded in a closet.

The lawsuit stated that the child was "so distressed at being shut in the closet that she ripped her hair out, ripped some of her scalp off, pinched her toes in the door, and peeled the plastic wall coverings off the walls."

BELOW: Read the lawsuit

The court document goes on to say during the child's time at Scotts Ridge, the student "was secluded for significant amounts of time. The teachers did not always record when they used restraint and seclusion, although they were required to do so."

"It was wrong not follow the appropriate reporting procedure to the public, to the federal government and to the parents," said Pease family attorney Stacey Gahagen. "They (the parents) had been watching their child decline. They had been going to therapists and trying to increase medication to try to help, you know, with the things that she was experiencing."

Wake County Public School System is not releasing any specific information about the settlement, other than to say that the new bi-annual report on disciplinary procedures did come out of the case.

The district said before the lawsuit, staff had already started working on improving seclusion and restraint reporting practices.