—Roger Nott, intervention specialist
Ohio limits the use of seclusion rooms in mental institutes and children’s residential facilities, but not in public schools, writes StateImpact Ohio‘s Molly Bloom and The Columbus Dispatch‘s Jennifer Smith Richards:
Some teachers say that seclusion rooms are effective tools when used properly.
No law governs seclusion rooms, and the Ohio Department of Education has provided little guidance and virtually no oversight to schools. The department has no idea which districts have seclusion rooms because it has not asked. It does not know how often vulnerable children are locked alone in rooms and does not intend to tell schools to stop doing it.
Sometimes, even parents don’t know when it happens to their children.
Ohio banned the use of prone restraints in 2008 when a 17-year-old girl died in a home for troubled children after her caretakers pinned her facedown on the floor. At first, there was public outcry. But the state never adopted new rules on how to handle special needs children.
Our StateImpact colleagues in Ohio filed public records requests to obtain the seclusion room policies of 100 school districts in the state. They found that the 39 districts that use rooms to isolate children largely did not have rules dictating how long students should be kept in seclusion or why.
They also found that the rooms weren’t just used to calm students when they became violent. Seclusion room logs indicate the rooms were sometimes used to discipline students, which isn’t their intended purpose.Indiana last reviewed its policy on seclusion and restrain in 2009 after U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to the chief of schools. At the time, Indiana had no formal policy, and later the Indiana State Board of Education approved a recommendation “… that schools and school corporations address the use of student seclusion and restraint as part of the school’s written discipline rules.”
According to the policy guidance, the Indiana Department of Education permits the use of isolation and restraint as part of a behavioral intervention plan or individualized education plan, but only when doing so helps ensure the safety of students and others. Isolation shouldn’t be used as a form of punishment. Also:
… the Department recommends that when a student has experienced three instances of isolated time out or physical restraint, the school personnel who initiated, monitored, and supervised the incidents shall review the effectiveness of the procedure(s) used and prepare an individual behavior plan for the student that provides either for continued use of these interventions or for the use of other, specified interventions. The plan shall be placed into the student’s student record.
Districts are also supposed to have a process for notifying parents when seclusion rooms are used, according to the IDOE’s recommendations.
The U.S. Department of Education offers a state-by-state comparison of seclusion and restraint policies. In 2008, about half of Indiana’s school districts already had policies in place, according to a report.
About a third of Indiana schools with time-out or isolation room policies included a specific time limit on how long a student could be kept in seclusion. Nearly a quarter required the district to notify a parent when an isolation room was used.
Does your district use a seclusion room?