Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What The Indiana Department Of Education Says About Seclusion Rooms

“I don’t want to go in there, because in society, there is no time-out room. … But I think it’s necessary in order to keep them safe, and keep everybody else going, and sometimes you just need a break.”
—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?


  • inteach

    “I don’t want to go in there, because in society, there is no time-out room…”

    What do you consider prisons to be?

    • Lew Polsgrove

      Dear Mr. Inteach. You probably won’t get this message, but if you do I’m suggesting that you think about your statement that in society, there is no time-out room. Thousands of children and youth are committed to correctional institutions annually; about 50% of them should not be there and have no way of getting out. This is the equivalent of a semi-permanent timeout room. Get better training!

  • DanG

    Hmmm ODE provided no oversight??? Shocker!

  • Djhammon

    In Nevada we outlawed using closets in schools to traumatize young vulnerable children (and all others) in 1999. I cannot believe states are talking about “the appropriate use of seclusion” or “training” or “policies” on locking children in closets. CPS will charge parents with abuse for such behavior. The object is to teach, not terrorize. People First of Nevada is investigating the old rooms because some of them were traumatized after passage and they would like the rooms removed all together. Our agency can tell when some teacher has decided to use it, because we have an out of control child, often urinating or defecating on themselves in a desperate attempt to get out. There is no appropriate way to torture. Seclusion is torture, not teaching.

  • Lew Polsgrove,

    All schools in Indiana should be required to follow a uniform basic code for the use of seclusion rooms. These are necessary for youngsters who have lost emotional and physical control and pose danger to themselves, their teachers, peers, and administrators. Every school should also have a crisis intervention team of trained and able professionals who understand how to implement non-harmful physical interventions to prevent harmful consequences. Fortunately, the State of Indiana and/or local school systems do not have to invent these procedures. Safe seclusion room procedures were first developed by the Association for Behavior Analysis for use professional clinics and hospitals. And there are approximately twenty private companies that are available to provide the training. This information has been available for over THIRTY years. Over this period children and adolescents have become progressively more dangerous over this time and institutions providing education and care for them can no longer afford to go without some sort of crisis plan without bearing legal and medical responsibilities. Reference: Gast, D.L., Nelson, C.M. (1995) Exceptional Children;Feb95, Vol. 61 Issue 4, p353

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