Frederick County Public Schools Continues To Address Problems Noted By US DOJ Report Last Year

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Cheryl Dyson (Photo From Frederick County Public Schools)

It says FCPS excessively used seclusion and physical restraint against special ed students.

Frederick, Md. (KM) – The Frederick County School System continues to address the problems outlined in last year’s US Department of Justice report which said seclusion and physical restraint are used excessively against students in special education who act out in class. Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Dyson addressed that issue during a recent interview with WFMD News. “We are still working on our DOJ responses. So we’re in a great place looking at some of the findings, and really our action plan is aligned with that. It’s going to benefit our students and our families,” she said.

The Department of Justice required  the School System to sign a consent decree with a promise to make improvements. Dr. Dyson says the School has hired new supervisors and is providing training for teachers. “We’ve removed seclusion as an option. So that is no longer there,” she says. “We’re working on training around de-escalation strategies, surface behavior management strategies so we can keep our special education students in the classroom and available for learning.”

Part of the improvements include hiring additional special education teachers and instructional assistance, and this has been a challenge for Frederick County Public Schools. “We are looking at our college partners to help us in terms of our recruitment.. We’re doing job fairs. So I think the strategies that we are have are  helping  us,” says Dr. Dyson.

She says some changes have been made in the hiring process to get these new teachers and instructional assistants on board by the time the 2022-2023 academic year starts on August 17th “We’ve cut down some of our screening processes so we can on-board and we can get people through the application process a lot quicker,” says Dr. Dyson.

But she  states that the School System will continue to hire the most qualified individuals for these jobs. “We are governed by state qualifications and criteria so we do have to make sure we follow those,” says Dr. Dyson. “But where we can–word of mouth–any lead that we can, we’re trying to attract more teachers here.”

Despite the report from  the Justice Department, Dr. Dyson says it’s important for FCPS and parents of special education children to be in constant communication, referring to the parents as “partners” in their children’s education. She says some of those lines of communication are still operational, even after last year’s Justice Department report. :”We do have to rebuild trust,”: she said. “The Department of Justice report did do some damage in terms of relationships. But I think we are working really hard to re-establishing those relationships and it’s going to be an ongoing process.”

By Kevin McManus