RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A pair of Wake County parents said their third-grade daughter was locked in a closet as a disciplinary measure at school 24 times. They sued the Wake County Public School System and have now reached a settlement.
Kevin and Jocelyn Pease said their daughter was in a behavioral program for her learning disabilities. When she was 8 years old, the Peases said their daughter’s behavior at home began to change.
Jocelyn Pease told CBS 17 her daughter would take hours to calm down after being picked up in tears from school, and she couldn’t be in rooms alone at home. One day, their family friend was at the school and shot video while seeing their daughter restrained and carried out of the cafeteria.
The family discovered their daughter had been shut in the closet dozens of times for bad behavior, for up to an hour and a half at a time. Jocelyn Pease told CBS 17 she was unaware her daughter was being disciplined this way and was told that kind of punishment is allowed.
A previous court ruled the Peases were entitled to private tuition reimbursement and related costs, including transportation. The child was also entitled to other forms of compensation such as years-worth of speech therapy, and education in social skills, court documents showed.
Recently filed court documents show the district will have to pay $450,000 to the Peases. While part of the money will go towards covering legal costs, $43,000 will be paid to a trust account for the then-third grader.
The settlement also lays out changes the district will be mandated to make when it comes to physical restraint of children. The changes require the Wake County Public School System to publish its Elementary Behavior Support manual online and include visual examples of types of physical restraint allowed on children. The district will need to publish a semiannual report with restraint and seclusion data.
In addition, parents of students in the Elementary Behavior Support program will receive a document explaining seclusion and restraint practices.
The settlement terms require a report to be made anytime a student is restrained or secluded. Parents must be notified no later than the end of the school day when it happens. That notice needs to include why the action was taken and whether any other alternatives or de-escalation were attempted.
WCPSS is also tasked with sending corrected data to the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection Reports. Through the settlement, the district reported no instanced of student restraint or seclusion. They’ll have to send corrected data going back to 2016.
New data will need to be presented to the district’s board of education on a semi-annual basis.