BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland State Department of Education on Thursday announced a “top-to-bottom review” of existing policies to prevent what the department called the illegal and excessive use of restraint and seclusion.

The announcement comes after Frederick County Public Schools in early December reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to address discriminatory use of restraint and seclusion. The school system allegedly disproportionately practiced restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities.

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“The recent findings have made it clear that MSDE and local school systems have much more work to do in order to ensure that all students – including students with disabilities and students of color – are treated fairly and equitably throughout the State, and that students are provided with an array of positive behavior interventions, strategies, and supports,” the school system said in its announcement.

The department said it is developing an action plan to provide increased oversight and corrective measures to ensure system reform across the State to safeguard students from “harmful and ineffective practices.”

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State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said in all cases, restraint and seclusion should be used as a last resort and only in emergency circumstances.

“Given the potentially devastating physical and emotional impact of restraint and seclusion on students and staff, as well the disproportionate use on students with disabilities and students of color, MSDE will work with our local school systems to eliminate the illegal use of these practices and increase system capacity to provide effective, positive means of behavior management,” he said.

While the department focused on the Federick County settlement. A viral video circulated in November showed a restrained Black student being punched in the head by a staffer at Howard High School.

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CBS Baltimore Staff