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ProPublica Wins National Center on Disability and Journalism Award

The National Center on Disability and Journalism (NCDJ) announced today that the ProPublica story Violent and Legal: The Shocking Ways School Kids are Being Pinned Down, Isolated Against Their Will is the winner of their Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability.

Written by reporter Heather Vogell, the story detailed the pervasiveness of public schools’ use of restraints and isolations – hazardous practices that are often banned in psychiatric and mental health institutions for adults. The investigation found that the victims of such treatment are typically vulnerable students with disabilities such as autism.

Months of digging also found that physical holds and isolations are more common than previous counts suggested, with more than 267,000 occurrences in the 2012 school year alone. ProPublica’s research sparked local coverage across the country, leading to important policy change. Since the story’s publication, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington State have all enacted new legislation to limit public schools’ use of restraints.

The Schneider Award, the first national journalism prize devoted exclusively to disability coverage, will be presented to Vogell at a Nov. 30 ceremony at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Read more about the award here.

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