SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — A 2019 federal investigation has finally concluded, with the Office for Civil Rights determining that a Utah charter school violated Section 504 of Title II of the Civil Rights Act.

Spectrum Academy, a Utah charter school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, was investigated after a routine review due to restraining and seclusion practices taking time away from students’ education amongst other related concerns, according to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Over the course of two years, there were 1,068 incidents of restraint and 178 incidents of seclusion. However, the concerns were not in regard to the incidents themselves.

While the investigation found the Academy had “clear and detailed policies” restricting the use of either tactic to emergency situations only, the concerns were centered on the apparent lack of follow-up with these students afterward.

In one instance, a student was restrained and/or secluded at least 99 times in one year resulting in 13 hours of class time missed. There were 27 other students that the office identified as having received a high number of restraints and seclusion during those years.

Following the repeated use of restraint or seclusion, the OCR says the Academy failed to provide any compensatory resources to make up for time lost in the classroom. They also reportedly failed to consider additional services that might reduce the use of those tactics.

Finally, the office found the Academy’s reporting of these incidents was faulty as they only reported a fraction of the actual restraint and seclusion incidents.

The OCR says these are violations of free appropriate public education (FAPE) which is a civil right protected by the government.

Spectrum Academy’s Executive Director of Academics Jaime Christensen responded to reports of the investigation clarifying that the use of restraint and seclusion is used to avoid them injuring others or themselves. “This could happen multiple times during the course of a day as we work with the student to find and implement a replacement behavior,” Christensen said.

The Academy worked with the OCR and agreed to resolve the violations through “significant changes to its policies, procedures, and training requirements,” the OCR said. Christensen said they have been providing compensatory services now since the start of the investigation.

“The OCR did not find any instances of restraint or seclusion being applied improperly. The main concern was that we ensure that if a student has missed instruction due to a behavior incident, that we ensure the specially designed instruction minutes are made up. We are working to do that now,” Christensen said.

These changes include providing training on all FAPE-related requirements, providing individual remedies for students who experienced restraint during that time, and ensuring records are maintained accurately.

The Academy will also implement a program to monitor the use of restraint and seclusion and help protect the student’s rights.

“Spectrum Academy has committed to important steps to ensure that its emergency use of restraint or seclusion does not deny students with disabilities their federally protected civil rights,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said.

During 2017-2019, the Academy taught roughly 1,500 students K-12 in North Salt Lake and Pleasant Grove. Over 85% of the students were reported to have disabilities. Christensen said there is only a small number of students who require these kinds of emergency support tactics.