Covington schools reach settlement with feds in student handcuffing case

Posted at 5:14 PM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-19 20:31:33-05

COVINGTON, Ky. -- Covington Independent Public Schools agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and a new set of guidelines for disciplining children with disabilities Thursday, according to a news release.

The settlement arrived following a lawsuit filed in 2015 after a school resource officer handcuffed a pair of children in what the ACLU claimed was a violation of their civil rights. The students -- a boy and a girl, both of whom had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, histories of trauma and other disabilities -- had been unfairly disciplined for behavior related to their disabilities, according to the ACLU. That lawsuit is still pending.

(Note that the captions in the video below were added by the ACLU.)

Although an independent investigation did not find the district guilty of wrongdoing, the Department of Justice said that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to school resource officers, and school policies should dissuade the "school-to-prison pipeline" created by criminalizing misbehavior.

Under the new set of guidelines, school resource officers and other law enforcement will only intervene if a child is a direct threat to the physical safety of other children or has committed a serious crime. The news release also said that the school district will discontinue the use of “calm rooms” to isolate or seclude students who misbehave.

"The District’s agreement to these terms is encouraging and requires working to change the culture within its system to one which should promote better outcomes for all children," said Kim Tandy, Executive Director of the Children’s Law Center. "Reliance on more punitive measures has been ineffective and harmful to kids."

According to the district, Covington Independent Public Schools will update its code of conduct to reflect the new guidelines in time for the 2017-18 school year. The district will also devote more resources to supporting the needs of students with disabilities.