Advocates and parents decry Maine DOE complaint procedure

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In June, two requests were sent from parents of students with disabilities to the Maine Department of Education regarding the improper use of physical restraint in the state’s public schools.

In one of the cases, a student was allegedly held down in a face-down, or prone, position, though the use of student’s individual education plan didn’t allow for the use of physical restraint, according to an article in the Portland Press Herald. In the other case, a student was restrained by one staff member when two were required.

The state responded four months later, saying the parents had not provided enough detailed information regarding the incidents, prompting a letter from the Disability Rights Center challenging the state’s system for handling restraint and seclusion cases.

In the letter, the center argues that the state’s requirements for complaints are evidence that it lacks a “detailed, transparent and consistent statewide” process for handling complaints. It also states that Maine lacks the timelines necessary for prompt investigation and the standards are so strict they “prevent many serious situations from being investigated.”

“We are concerned that a parent may not have access to the information needed to file a complaint that meets this standard because parents are not at school and, in our experience, restraint incidents are rarely reported to parents by schools at that level of detail,” the letter stated.

Disability Rights Center is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.