a response to a lawsuit filed in federal court, the Columbus school district denies that it fails to oversee the use of “seclusion rooms” where special needs students are sometimes taken to manage disruptive behavior.
As StateImpact Ohio and the Columbus Dispatch reported earlier, the Ohio Legal Rights Service, an independent state agency, is suing the district to obtain records about the use of the rooms in the school district. The district has declined to identify students’ names and contact information, citing confidentiality concerns.
The lawsuit came about as part of an investigation spurred by the mother of an autistic student who contacted the agency about her son being placed in a seclusion room — which she called a “closet” — more than once, according to the lawsuit. The mother said that her son became so upset he “had urinated in the room, was lying on the floor, and contracted a staph infection,” according to the lawsuit.
The school district, in its response earlier this week, said the student’s mother did not actually file a complaint with the school district.
But the district admits that the high school, which is not named in the lawsuit, does have a what it calls “processing” or “respite” rooms in a high school and in other schools, including elementary schools. The district describes the high school room as a “padded room with a metal door” that has “two peep holes in order for staff to observe continuously a student placed in the room” and a “foot latch lock.”
The district also says that the room was designed based on advice from the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities and other school districts “to make the room a safe environment for children who needed to be isolated for limited periods of time for their own safety and that of other children and adults.”
A preliminary hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for early next month.