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Locked Away: Seclusion Rooms in Ohio Schools

Background

Seclusion rooms are enclosed spaces that are supposed to be used to calm or restrain children who become violent.

In Ohio, until recently no state law governed seclusion rooms’ use in schools, and the Ohio Department of Education had provided little guidance and virtually no oversight to schools.


But the discussion about whether or how to regulate seclusion in schools has continued in the U.S. for nearly four decades.

In 2012, after accounts of inappropriate restraint and seclusion of Columbus students made news, the Ohio Department of Education restarted a 2009 task force that had drafted a state policy on the use of seclusion and restraint. The state Board of Education approved a policy in early 2013.

Seclusion rooms can be crucial tools to keep students who may quickly spin out of control and become violent safe. Many educators say seclusion rooms should be used only when children are at risk of hurting themselves or others.

There is little evidence that seclusion helps children but plenty of evidence that it hurts them. Seclusion rooms do take children out of the classroom, where they could be learning. Teachers and students can be injured forcing a struggling child into a seclusion room. Research shows that children have committed suicide, hurt themselves and even died inside seclusion rooms.

By the Numbers

In April 2012, The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio requested records from 100 districts and charter schools across Ohio selected to represent a variety of school types and found that 39 set aside rooms to isolate children.

The U.S. Department of Education surveyed school districts about how they used seclusion rooms during the 2009-10 school year. In Ohio, 41 of the 289 districts surveyed by the federal agency said they had secluded students 4,236 times. In more than 60 percent of cases, disabled children were those being secluded.

Investigation

A 2012 investigation by The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio found that seclusion rooms are misused in Ohio schools. Some teachers use them to punish children. Many times, placing children in the rooms is a convenience for frustrated employees.

The joint investigation also found many schools that used seclusion rooms had no formal policy about when or how the rooms should be used or about how parents should be notified. Many schools did not train staff in the proper use of seclusion rooms.

Latest Posts

DOE Quantifies Seclusion Incidents In Ohio Schools

Beatty Park Elementary in the Columbus school district serves children with emotional and behavioral disturbances.

Preliminary data shows that more than one-third of Ohio’s public schools restrained at least one student during the last school year, and about 13 percent of public schools isolated children in seclusion rooms. That’s according to Ohio Department of Education data, part of the first-ever comprehensive look at seclusion and restraint in Ohio’s public schools.

Oregon Orders School to Remove Seclusion Rooms

PhotoAtelier / Flickr The Oregon state legislature banned certain kinds of seclusion rooms earlier this year. Now the state’s Board of Education has ordered a Portland public school to remove four seclusion rooms, Northwest Public Radio reports.

Special Ed Lawyer says ODE’s Report on Columbus Schools’ Seclusion and Restraint Use “Reads Like a Horror Story”

The Ohio Department of Education recently wrapped up an investigation into the Columbus school district’s use of seclusion and restraint, and found that the district had done nothing wrong. But Aimee Gilman, a special education attorney, is unsatisfied with the department’s findings. In a letter to department officials, Gilman writes: “The descriptions in your findings read [...]

One in 25 Columbus School District Students with Disabilities Restrained or Secluded

A state review of records from Columbus, Ohio’s largest school district, has found that one in 25 students was restrained or secluded in one year, the Columbus Dispatch reports: The new information about how often, where and why Columbus staff members have used physical means to try to control children with disabilities offers insight into [...]

Indiana Considers Seclusion and Restraint Policy for Schools

Cindy Cornett Seigle / Flickr Indiana lawmakers are considering a state law that would regulate the use of seclusion and restraint in all public schools. Currently, the Indiana Department of Education suggests that schools have their own policies on the use of seclusion and restraint, our colleagues at StateImpact Indiana report: But ARC of Indiana [...]

State Board of Education Approves Seclusion and Restraint Policy

Ohio schools now have a set of guidelines to follow when it comes to their use of seclusion rooms and restraints. The state Board of Education passed a policy regulating seclusion and restraint at their board meeting today by a 12-4 vote. Seclusion rooms are small rooms used to isolate students. Restraints are when a [...]

Ohio Moves to Regulate Seclusion, Restraint in Some Schools

Morgan Linnabary of Defiance says he was placed in a seclusion room dozens of times.

Morgan Linnabary was eight years old when he was sent to a special school for children with behavior problems. At the new school, when he mouthed off to teachers or got upset, he was sent from his classroom to the isolation room: a plywood box inside a separate room down the hall. It happened dozens [...]

Ohio State Board of Education Vote on Seclusion, Restraint Policy Delayed

Gary Knight / Flickr With more than 100 parents, educators and other commenters weighing in on the Ohio state Board of Education’s plan to regulate the use of seclusion rooms and restraint in Ohio schools, the state board has postponed scheduled votes on the proposed regulations. Seclusion rooms are enclosed spaces that are supposed to [...]

Ohio Department of Education to Investigate Seclusion Rooms in Columbus Schools

The Ohio Department of Education will open an investigation the Columbus school district’s use of seclusion rooms, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Seclusion rooms are enclosed spaces that are supposed to be used to calm or restrain children who become violent. The investigation was prompted by a formal complaint filed against Ohio’s largest school district by [...]

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