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Statement Regarding Recent Events

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Some of you may have seen the article published in the Salt Lake Tribune yesterday regarding Spectrum Academy and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigation that was recently completed. As the Executive Director of Academics and the person who worked with OCR on this investigation, I am compelled to respond to the one-sided article and explain the results of the investigation with OCR.


First and foremost, the employees of Spectrum Academy are the finest and most caring individuals anyone could have the honor to work with. They love the students that they serve on a daily basis.


Due to the nature of the disabilities of the students we serve, including the sensory, social, and adaptive skill differences, situations arise where students become a danger to themselves or others around them. This happens despite all of the antecedent interventions Spectrum Academy provides. As a last resort, employees specifically trained in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (NCI) may find it necessary for safety purposes to intervene in a situation by restraining a student who is engaging in self-injury, or injury to another student or staff member. Employees trained in NCI must follow strict protocols to ensure the safety of all involved. When an incident occurs, parents are immediately notified including, but not limited to, what led up to the utilization of the emergency safety intervention, why an ESI was used, and strategies the team used to help and support the student. Proper documentation is then sent home providing all details of the incident.


The report of high numbers of restraints or seclusions is misleading at best. For example, if we are trying to keep a student who has self-injurious behavior from hurting themselves or others, we will hold their arm or whichever part of their body they are trying to harm, to avoid them getting seriously injured. This could happen multiple times during the course of a day as we work with the student to find and implement a replacement behavior to express their wants and needs.


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. Our policies and procedures regarding special education and behavior interventions can be found here:



Unfortunately, the Salt Lake Tribune sensationalized a story that it only had one piece of information about. Should anyone desire to meet to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.


Sincerely,

Jaime Christensen, EdD, BCBA, LBA

Executive Director of Academics

801-866-7762







ABC4 News Statement


Over the past three years, Spectrum Academy, a charter school formed specifically to serve the needs of students with autism and other neurodiversities, has worked with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regarding a routine review of seclusionary time out and restraint procedures during the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 school years. OCR reviews several schools at random every year and Spectrum Academy was happy to comply with all aspects of the review. During the review it was noted that some students who were away from instruction during a behavior incident had their civil rights violated because those instructional minutes had not been made up at a later date, and an IEP team had not been convened to discuss whether the students needed to be reevaluated, or have additional supports and services added to their programming. While these items were discussed at regularly scheduled Emergency Safety Intervention meetings, an IEP meeting was not convened after every incident.


Due to the nature of the disabilities of the students we serve, including the sensory, social, and adaptive skill differences, situations arise where students become a danger to themselves or others around them. This happens despite all of the antecedent interventions Spectrum Academy provides. As a last resort, employees specifically trained in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (NCI) may find it necessary for safety purposes to intervene in a situation by restraining a student who is engaging in self-injury, or injury to another student or staff member. Employees trained in NCI must follow strict protocols to ensure the safety of all involved. When an incident occurs, parents are immediately notified including, but not limited to, what led up to the utilization of the emergency safety intervention, why an ESI was used, and strategies the team used to help and support the student. Proper documentation is then sent home providing all details of the incident. Thankfully, there is a very small number of students who ever need this level of support. The OCR did not find any instances of restraint or seclusion being applied improperly. All aspects of state and federal law were followed in this regard.


Additionally, OCR found discrepancies in the information we provided to them and the information we reported on our annual Civil Rights Data Collection submission. We are working to determine the accuracy and validity of that assertion and to create policies and procedures that would prevent any inaccuracies in the future.


Since the 2018/2019 school year, Spectrum Academy has provided timely (within 14 calendar days) compensatory services for any student who missed instruction due to a behavior incident. We are currently working on providing any necessary compensatory services for the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 school years.


Spectrum Academy and its employees are dedicated to providing quality educational programming for our wonderful students! We are grateful for the opportunity to do so and for the amazing support of parents, students, and community members.


Jaime Christensen, EdD, BCBA, LBA

Executive Director of Academics




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