The Kentucky State Board of Education voted today to sharply limit the use of seclusion and restraint in public schools. The Kentucky policy would also require schools to tell parents when seclusion and restraint are used.
Kentucky did not previously regulate the use of seclusion and restraint in public schools. Ohio does not currently regulate the use of seclusion rooms in schools. However, a 2009 executive order does prohibit restraining students face-down.
Our joint investigation with The Columbus Dispatch found that seclusion, in particular, is misused in Ohio schools. Seclusion rooms are enclosed spaces that are supposed to be used to calm or restrain children who become violent. But some teachers use them to punish children. At times, placing children in the rooms is a convenience for frustrated employees.
Many Ohio schools that StateImpact Ohio and The Dispatch surveyed that use seclusion rooms have no formal policy about when or how the rooms should be used or about how parents should be notified. And many Ohio schools do not train staff in the proper use of seclusion rooms.
Kentucky’s policy says seclusion may only be used when a student’s behavior “poses an imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others.”
The superintendent of one Kentucky school district told the Kentucky board the new state policy is similar to his district’s.
“They’re common sense and they’re things that come from a lot of conversations with a lot of constituents,” Marion County Public Schools Superintendent Chuck Hamilton said.
The Kentucky policy says school staff must:
- Visually monitor students in seclusion rooms;
- Try less restrictive interventions first; and
- Be “appropriately trained” to use seclusion.
That training includes teaching a “core team” of teachers and other staff about the proper use of seclusion and restraint, as well as teaching all district staff in positive behavior support.
The Kentucky policy specifically says that seclusion may not be used as punishment, to prevent property damage, a convenience for staff, or as a substitute for less restrictive forms of timeout.
It also requires schools to:
- Notify parents within 24 hours of putting their child in a seclusion room;
- Allow parents to request a “debriefing session” with school staff after seclusion is used; and
- Report to the state how seclusion is used.
Kentucky’s policy also requires all staff who use seclusion and restraint to experience restraint themselves as part of their training.
The Kentucky policy now goes through a public hearing and review process, and could be changed before it’s implemented. A department spokesperson said the new policy will likely not take effect until after the 2012-13 school year.