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Department of Justice opened investigation into CRCSD use of seclusion rooms in 2020

Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 4:42 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A letter from the Department of Justice, which our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team received through a public records request, shows the federal group opened an investigation into the Cedar Rapids Community School District in October 2020.

The letter requests photos, policies and data on seclusion rooms and restraints, with a consistent emphasis on students with disabilities. Noreen Bush, who is the superintendent of the Cedar Rapids Community School District, said the Justice Department would be conducting onsite visits this week.

The Department of Justice is the federal agency in charge of enforcing compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the letter to the district, it cites its role in enforcing the law across the country. But, it makes no specific allegations and the school district says it isn’t aware of a specific complaint.

There was a complaint filed to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in 2017. The complaint cites the district incorrectly reporting seclusion room and restraint usage to the federal government, which was discovered in a KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigation in 2017.

Mary Richard, who is the attorney who filed that complaint, said she believes her complaint is the cause for the Department of Justice Investigation. She said federal investigations normally take a long time to start because the department receives a large amount of complaints related to the ADA and those investigations are complicated.

“There not simple things. These are not one-shot things,” Richard said. These are issues where they are going to be looking at facilities, personal, procedures, policies. There’s a lot of different areas to investigate.”

Colleen Scholer, who is the school district spokesperson, said CRCSD can’t confirm if the 2017 complaint is the cause for the Department of Justice’s investigation because it has not told the school what initiated their review.

“The Department of Justice has not identified any specific incident, complainant, child, or school as being the source of this investigation, and they have repeatedly said that this is a District-wide review of policies and practices,” she wrote in an email.

We’ve requested more open records from both the DOJ and Cedar Rapids School District. The district has said it would charge KCRG $1,000 for lawyers to review documents before releasing them. We’re still waiting to hear back from the federal government.

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