A Dolores grandfather has criticized the school district for disciplinary techniques used on his grandson, but district administrators say they acted appropriately.
At a meeting earlier this month, the man told the school board that the Dolores School District Re-4A had not appropriately followed the Individual Education Plan for his grandson. The boy is eligible for special education services at the school and faces social emotional and behavioral challenges, at times becoming physically aggressive, according to a report by the Colorado Department of Education.
The grandfather issued complaints with the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office and CDE against the district and San Juan Board of Cooperative Services, which provides exceptional student services in Southwest Colorado.
He alleged that staff used a “weighted blanket” as discipline.
“I really want to make sure you knew what was happening at the school,” he told the board.
Sheriff and state investigators produced differing results: The Sheriff’s Office cleared the district of wrongdoing; the state found the school and BOCES violated aspects of federal and state law.
In the Sheriff’s Office report, Detective Yvonne McClellan wrote that she had discussed the case with the District Attorney’s Office.
“Together with the DA’s Office, it was determined that the case did not rise to the level of the criminal intent needed for child abuse,” she wrote.
The Sheriff’s Office, she stated, had contacted the child’s family and offered support through local agencies, but it had not been taken.
“Through my investigations, I have determined that while the school used a (unapproved) weighted blanket, they did so with their best intentions for the well-being of the child,” McClellan wrote.
The CDE, though, found the district and BOCES violated the state’s Protection of Persons from Restraint Act by using a “mechanical restraint” not authorized by the student’s IEP by not following documentation and notification requirements.
The state also found that by removing the student from a “general education setting” multiple times, the school violated the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. CDE investigators acknowledged keeping the student in a general education classroom “would have threatened the safety of others and interfered with the education of his peers,” but said BOCES should have convened staff and service providers earlier to reevaluate the student’s Behavior Intervention Plan.
The state complaints officer set conditions for the district and BOCES to meet, including submitting to the state a corrective action plan by Jan. 10, providing the student’s parent with a “consent for reevaluation” by Dec. 20 and convening a meeting to review and revise the student’s IEP and BIP by March 6.
“The Decision of the SCO is final and is not subject to appeal,” the CDE report states said.
Dolores Superintendent Lis Richard said the district met state conditions.
She said while the district is not permitted to appeal the state decision, the district disagrees with the term “weighted blanket” to refer to the restraining device.
The district couldn’t appeal the findings by statute, but it takes issue with references to “a weighted blanket,” Richard told The Journal.
She added that CDE investigators conducted their interviews by phone while sheriff and DA staff investigated in person at the school.
“We are very careful with all of our students and their needs,” Richard said. “It is our intent to carefully follow the regulations set in place for student safety. Our sincere desire is that this child and all in our care are safe, secure, and provided the excellent education they deserve. We continue to work with our BOCES to coordinate such efforts.”