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Northampton Public Schools Special Education information and links. This is not an official Northampton public schools site. It is built entirely by volunteers (mostly Greg) and all information is subject to change and may contain errors


In 2009, some parents became very concerned about the use of restraint and seclusion in Northampton Public Schools. They addressed the concerns by:

  • Focusing on their own children and coming to agreement with the school system on changing practices.
  • Becoming leaders in the PAC
  • Bringing the issue up in the every six years, state mandated Coordinated Program Review
  • Raising the issue repeatedly with the school committee
  • Focusing on data and tracking to detect aress of concern andn address them

The result so far has been better working relatrionship with the school system, reduced use of restraint and seclusion and more awareness of the impact. See below for two letters

Links to Web Sites

Public School Web Site
Special Education Home Page

Letter to School Committee

Dear School Committee Members,

I'm writing to share with you the PAC's recommendations for Northampton's Restraint & Seclusion policies. I shared the attached document with Nathan Ziegler on May 11, and when we spoke today, he indicated that he has considered it in the recommendations he will make tomorrow to the Rules & Policy subcommittee.

The PAC believes that Northampton should take a proactive stance on the issue of physical restraint in its public schools, and that the district's policy should require data collection about all incidents of physical restraint, regardless of the duration of those restraints. Without documentation of all incidents of restraint, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for administrators and school committee members to understand the extent to which restraint is being used with Northampton students, and to address issues that may arise if restraint is used unsafely or inappropriately.

In the 2009 CPR, the district was found out of compliance not just with civil rights with regard to restraint training, but in regard to the implementation of positive behavioral supports. When positive supports are absent, restraint is often the only tool teachers are left with given disabled children with challenging behavior. I am sure you have all heard the tragic stories of injury and even death due to restraint and seclusion in public schools that were aired at last year's Congressional hearings on the issue. For details, including a link to the GAO report on this issue, please see the National School Boards Association's brief on the topic. An investigation by COPAA includes at least one case from Northampton Public Schools (C56). As you no doubt are aware, a federal law on the issue is also under consideration, passed by the House in March.

The attached document includes the principles and key components that the PAC recommends our district's policy should include. On the second page, the document outlines recommendations made by two professional educators who examined Northampton's practices with regard to restraint. We hope that the School Committee will revise the policy to require the collection of data about all restraints and direct the administration to take action to implement the findings of the professionals who have examined Northampton's practices.

Thank you for your time in considering these recommendations and in addressing this important issue, which we believe is not just a matter of safety, but also represents an opportunity to express our community's values. We are of course available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information and support in efforts to address these serious issues.

All the best,

Cate Rowen Northampton SPED PAC Co-Chair

PAC recommended policy updates

Restraint & Seclusion: Northampton Public Schools PAC Recommendations
Statement of principles
Human rights
Safety for students and staff

  • Behavior is communication: unsafe behavior requires evaluation to determine causes Restraint is a treatment failure
  • Restraint is an emergency intervention and should not be used as a primary intervention IEPs should not contain restraint except in emergency safety plans
  • The district can benefit from years of research and implementation of restraint reduction in inpatient and adult settings

Key components

  • Follow the law (emergency only, no mechanical restraint, no seclusion, training, documentation, parent notification)
  • All restraints documented, whether <5 minutes or not
  • No prone restraint
  • No transport restraint
  • Building-based supervision and accountability for restraint monitoring, prevention, and reduction
  • District-wide accountability for restraint
  • Failure to document restraint is unacceptable
  • Restraint triggers parental consent request for FBA, immediate review of behavioral interventions
  • Public reporting of number of restraints, number of children involved in restraint, ages of children restrained

Professional Recommendations (Jurgensen, Cutler)

  • More training focused on de-escalation, particularly for staff working with children at risk of restraint
  • FBA procedures require review (entry criteria)
  • Multiple restraints trigger review of placement
  • Training to distinguish between emergency restraint and restraint as an intervention
  • Preventative restraint should be prohibited
  • Only appropriately trained staff may intervene/”help” in a restraint
  • Staff may not move a child as a part of restraint
  • Physical restraint monitor at every elementary school to “process” restraints
  • Questions and concerns immediately referred to Pupil Services
  • Clarify role of director of health services
  • Define school nurse’s role in restraints, notify immediately


  • All staff trained in MA restraint law; annual training and certification
  • Protocol that nurse checks students after restraint and documents findings
  • Enforcement: No children should be carried
  • Enforcement: No prone holds unless specific training
  • Enforcement of deviation from use of approved, trained restraints
  • School-wide restraint log monitored by administrator, analysis of patterns
  • Clear hierarchy of supervisory roles
  • Revised form: Nurse’s signature, administrative review signature, indication of information to principal, indication of parental notification, signatures of all staff involved.
  • All restraints, regardless of duration, written up and parents informed.
  • Attention to safety in all time out spaces
  • Staff must be accessible to child in time out space at all times

Comments on CPR by Parents

Northampton’s 2009 Coordinated Program Review Audit:
Summary and PAC Recommendations
Prepared by the Northampton Special Education Parent Advisory Council
Contacts: Valle Dwight, Cate Rowen


The City of Northampton has a deep and principled commitment to the success of all our children. As the Parent Advisory Council to the Northampton School District, the PAC works to advise the district on matters that will help our most vulnerable children achieve success. In this capacity, the PAC is providing this summary, along with recommendations, of the results of the recent Coordinated Program Review (CPR) conducted by the DESE.

The CPR is a comprehensive report of the Northampton’s education system; it evaluates whether Northampton meets the minimum standards required by law in delivering education to children with special needs and English language learners.

While the DESE found that Northampton has complied with the law in many areas, the PAC feels that it is vitally important to bring to the School Committee’s attention that this year’s CPR has identified significant and extensive problems that will require significant and extensive corrective action. Northampton has been found noncompliant in more areas this year than ever before, and as the following summary will show, these violations point to systemic gaps and substantial organizational failures, failures that are underscored by the regular feedback we receive from parents.

The PAC recognizes and applauds the efforts that have been made to improve education, both special and general, in the district. Stimulus money has been spent to develop research-based literacy interventions, which will be beneficial to all students. The district employs very many highly skilled and dedicated staff who work hard to help our children achieve despite great odds. However, we have focused this summary and our report chiefly on the areas of the report where the district has not complied with the law, because the implications for these failures are not merely administrative or bureaucratic. Each of these areas directly affects the ability of Northampton’s children to succeed.

We hope that this document will provide a relatively concise overview of areas that must be improved, along with the PAC’s view of the audit’s implications, and our recommendations. As always, we remain ready to assist the School Committee and Administration in moving our district, and its children, toward success.
Audit Background

  • Coordinated Program Review (“CPR”)
  • Conducted by Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Examines compliance with special education, English learner education, and civil rights laws
  • Every school district is evaluated every six years, with a mid-term evaluation every three years
  • Does not represent best practice recommendations or aspirational guidelines: the audit evaluates only basic compliance with minimum legal standards
  • Northampton received a draft copy of the report for comment and to dispute inaccuracies on September 25, 2009
  • Final report issued on November 23, 2009, including DESE responses to disputed items

Audit Findings in Context

  • 2009 Audit Findings:
    • 43 findings requiring corrective action
    • 18 SPED
    • 10 Civil Rights
    • 15 English Learner Education
    • commendable findings

  • In context:
    • in 2003, 6 findings required corrective action
    • In 2003, 6 areas were found commendable
    • 2003 audit instrument had more standards
    • Among peer districts reviewed under current standards (2007-2009)  :
    • Northampton had 43 findings requiring corrective action, 0 commendable
    • East Longmeadow had 37 findings, 3 commendable
    • South Hadley had 27 findings, 5 commendable
    • Longmeadow had 20 findings, 1 commendable
    • Hudson and Ludlow both had 15 findings, 1 commendable
    • Amherst/Amherst-Pelham had 11 findings, 5 commendable

Noncompliance: Major Themes
Lack of Supports for Inclusive Classrooms

  • Least Restrictive Environment not always selected
  • Harmful effect on student not considered

From the visiting team:

  • “A review of student records, interviews, and parent surveys indicate that the program selected is not the least restrictive environment for students, with consideration given to any potential harmful effect on the student or on the quality of services that he or she needs…” (SE20, p 13)
  • Research indicates that inclusive settings benefit children without disabilities, as well as children with disabilities.

Lack of Instructional Supports

  • Curriculum accommodation plan not implemented
  • Very limited/unavailable in most schools
  • Remedial reading instruction
  • Consultation for teachers
  • Services for linguistic minority students

Affects ALL students in Northampton (Civil Rights)
From the visiting team:

  • “…due to limited resources principals have been unable to implement the curriculum accommodation plan developed by the district’s general education program to ensure that all efforts have been made to meet the meet the needs of diverse learners in the general education program. Instructional supports, including remedial reading instruction at the elementary levels, consultative services for teachers, and appropriate services for linguistic minority students are very limited and unavailable in most schools in the district…” (CR18 p 59)

The district lacks:

  • Reading support
  • Behavioral therapeutic support
  • Co-teaching
  • Inclusion support
  • Resource room support
  • Vocational support

From the visiting team:

  • “…there are several gaps in the continuum that prevent the district from providing supports and services to special needs students. The district lacks co-teaching, inclusion and resource room support options at all levels. The district is also in need of reading and behavioral therapeutic supports for special education students at all levels. In addition, Teams do not routinely consider or discuss students’ vocational needs, services or vocational opportunities at the high school level when developing IEPs because the district does not have vocational services or vocational opportunities for students who have been denied admission into the local vocational school.” (SE34, p. 20)
  • Lack of accommodations by general education teachers
  • Key areas
  • Direct, systematic reading instruction
  • Behavior services

Affects ALL students in Northampton (Civil Rights)

From the visiting team:

  • “…Regular classroom teachers do not analyze and accommodate the diverse learning styles of all children in the regular classroom and cannot provide appropriate services and supports within the general education program including, but not limited to, direct and systematic instruction in reading and provision of services to address the needs of children whose behaviors may interfere with learning.” (CR18 p 59)

Over-identification Due to Lack of Instruction

  • Because supports are unavailable in general education, students are being identified for special education who could learn with appropriate interventions early on.

From the visiting team:

  • “…the district has minimal academic supports for students in reading, as well as in content area classes…” (SE20, p 13)
  • “…the district has a practice of identifying limited English proficient (LEP) students as eligible for special education services and does not always determine if an LEP student’s lack of progress is the result of a disability or limited English proficiency.” (SE9A, p 34)
  • “…students are identified as eligible for special education services due to a lack of instruction in reading or mathematics.” (SE9A, p 34)

Growth in Northampton’s special education population :

  • Proportion of Northampton students identified for Special Education in 2003-04: 15.7%
  • Proportion of Northampton students identified for Special Education in 2008-09: 21.8%

Noncompliance with Assessment Requirements

  • Assessments not conducted as required
  • Services removed without determining whether they are needed
  • Lack of internal capacity

From the visiting team:

  • “…particularly at the elementary and high school levels, students are not assessed in all areas of suspected disability. In addition, it is a common practice of the district to remove related services…after elementary school without…further conducting comprehensive assessments in areas of disability.” (SE2, p 28)
  • “…individuals who are qualified to interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results are not always in attendance at Team meetings.” (SE8, p 32)

Lack of Behavioral Interventions

  • Students who need behavioral interventions do not receive them, or the evaluations needed to implement them effectively
  • Physical restraint safety training not conducted as required by law, specifically in the program where restraint is most likely to be used
  • From the visiting team:
  • “…IEP Teams do not routinely identify and include behavioral supports for services in IEPs when developing IEPs for students whose behaviors impede their learning or the learning of others. Teachers and parents report that students who have ongoing behavioral needs do not have positive behavioral interventions and the district does not conduct functional behavioral assessments within appropriate timeframes.” (SE43, p 45)
  • “…the district does not consistently implement staff training on the use of physical restraint for employees hired after the school year begins, within a month of their employment. In addition, at the alternative program, staff are not trained on the use of physical restraint and are unable to identify staff who have completed the in-depth training.” (CR17A, p 57)

Noncompliance with Basic Procedures

  • Paraprofessionals not supervised
  • Timelines not met
  • Paperwork inappropriate
  • Documentation submitted from another district

From the visiting team:

  • “…paraprofessionals are not supervised by an appropriately certified or licensed professional who is proximate and readily available to provide such supervision in all schools.” (SE53, p 25)
  • “…across all levels, the district does not meet timeline requirements for determination of eligibility.” (SE9, p33)
  • “…While the district has staff handbooks, there is no code of conduct for teachers.” (CR10A, p 53)
  • “…the district does not have a parental notification letter.” (ELE10, p 69)
  • “The district did not submit its own documentation for this criterion; the documentation submitted refers to another district.” (ELE11, p 70)

Administrative Contravention of the Team Process

  • Placements decided and services changed by administration, not those who know student
  • Parents not properly informed when district refuses to take action or takes a new action

From the visiting team:

  • “Staff report that placement decisions are determined by the administrator of special education and are based on the availability of placements, programs, services, and supports, not on evaluation data and individual student needs…” (SE20, p 14)
  • “A review of student records, and staff and parent interviews indicate that the Team recommendations and proposed IEPs are changed at a higher administrative level within the district.” (SE17, p 38)
  • “A review of student records indicates that across all levels the district’s Notices of Proposed School District Action (N1) are not comprehensive and do not meet all of the content requirements set forth in M.G.L. c.71B, §3, and in federal law.” (SE24, p 15)

Lack of English Learner Education Programming

  • Lack of materials accessible to non-English-speaking parents
  • Lack of services available to English language learners

From the visiting team:

  • "…the district has information and academic counseling on general curricular opportunities available in English only, which limits the availability of this information to [LEP] students.” (CR13, p 55)
  • “…the district has counseling materials, such as the Mental Health Resource Guide, available in English only. [LEP] students are not provided with the opportunity to receive guidance and counseling services or materials in a language they understand.” (CR14, p 56)

  • Inadequate ESL instruction
  • ELL students do not have the same opportunities

From the visiting team:

  • “…direct ESL instruction in these programs does not meet the recommended number of hours…It appears as though only the high school meets the recommended number of hours for Beginner and Early Intermediate ELLs, but not for Intermediate ELLs who appear to get no direct ESL instruction.” (ELE5, p 66)
  • “…the district does not ensure that LEP students are taught to the same academic standards and curriculum as all students, and does not provide the same opportunities to master such standards as other students, including the opportunity to enter academically advanced classes, and have access to a full range of programs.” (ELE11, p 70)

The PAC’s View
Goal #1 of the Northampton Public Schools:

  • Ensure equal access to education to all NPS students and improve student assessment scores for all students.
  • The children affected by these issues are “protected populations,” the most vulnerable children in Northampton.
  • More than one in five children in Northampton (22%) is identified for Special Education services.
  • A similar proportion of funding (23%) is spent on Special Education.
  • Nearly one in three dollars (30%) spent on SPED is spent on private and other out-of-district schools, instead of enhancing the educational infrastructure in our schools.
  • This audit represents minimum legal standards, not aspiration or best practice.
  • Issues affect all children, because supports are absent across the district.
  • Compliance can enhance the education of all children (e.g., reading instruction, behavioral supports, remedial interventions, co-teaching).
  • Failures have enormous negative effects on children and families in our community.
  • Short-term cost-cutting has long-term cost implications.

The PAC’s View of the Costs of Noncompliance

  • Children with potential who are not learning.
  • Costs to society, lost opportunity.
  • Delayed services mean more, higher-cost remediation.
  • Lack of supports and academic interventions affect all students.
  • Safety and human rights issues related to restraint training.
  • Our school district accepts funding from the state and federal government ($1.1 million plus stimulus) contingent on compliance with these laws; this funding could be jeopardized.
  • Private school placement awarded when the district fails to provide an appropriate education
  • Increase in SPED legal expenses 2004-2009: 228% ($26,601 in 2004; $87,189 in 2009).
  • Increase in out-of-district placement costs 2004-2008: 68% ($1,165,591 in 2005; $1,952,968 in 2008).

The PAC’s Recommendations
The PAC recommends that the Northampton School Department:

  • Develop a district-wide literacy program, K-12, building on Stimulus investment.
  • Programming needs to be developed, written, implemented
  • Consult with PAC literacy professionals offering free consulting
  • Review the curriculum accommodation plan to determine reasons for lack of implementation, effectiveness. Develop plan for implementation and monitoring.
  • Develop and appropriately staff a Response to Intervention model, which puts tiered interventions in place for all students.
  • Convene a task force to examine and report publicly on barriers to inclusion, develop three-year district-wide plan to reach ambitious, measurable goal for increasing high-quality inclusion programming.
  • Develop a process for regular official reporting from PAC to School Committee, including PAC involvement in budget and policy development processes.
  • Make a significant short-term investment in program development.
  • Re-allocate at least half of the SPED legal budget to fund programming.
  • Target services to stem the tide of out-of-district placements (e.g., reading).
  • Develop district leadership: identify and empower individuals charged with each area for improvement and hold individuals accountable for success.
  • Use audit, staff changes, Futures consulting engagement as opportunities to restructure and improve efficiency.
  • Increase opportunities for SPED and ELE parents to inform the School Committee process.

1- Source:
2 - All page citations refer to the Coordinated Program Review document published 11/23/09 by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The first number identifies the standard referenced, the second refers the reader to the page number.
3 - For a summary of this research, with references, please see 4 - Source:
5 - “the alternative program” refers to a program for children with emotional and behavioral disabilities, a group likely to be subjected to restraint.
6 - Source: Susan Wright, Business Manager, Northampton Public Schools, via public records appeal to Secretary of State’s Public Records Division Case# SPR09/283
7 - Source: School Finance Direct Special Education Expenditures as a Percentage of School Budgets 98-08,

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