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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

Ohio School Leaders Say State Should Not Regulate Use of Seclusion, Restraint

The state of Ohio should not regulate the use of seclusion and restraint in schools, dozens of school superintendents told the Ohio Department of Education. They say the requirements of current draft regulations are too expensive and unnecessary. In Ohio, no state law currently governs seclusion rooms, and the Ohio Department of Education has provided [...]

Read Some of the Comments on Ohio’s Draft Seclusion and Restraint Policy

The Ohio Department of Education received more than 100 comments, letters and suggestions on how to improve a draft policy on seclusion and restraint in schools. Those suggestions ranged from recommending that Ohio prohibit the use of seclusion rooms entirely to requesting that Ohio not regulate the use of seclusion and restraint in schools at [...]

Advocacy Group: Children May Be Hurt By Inaction On Seclusion Rooms

Michael Sawyers is Ohio's acting superintendent of public instruction.

A disability rights group now says Ohio children may be hurt if the Department of Education fails to stop the use of seclusion in schools.

In a letter to the acting head of the Ohio Department of Education, Michael Sawyers, Disability Rights Ohio writes, “we are concerned that unless appropriate action is taken, students with disabilities will continue to be subjected to traumatic, potentially lethal practices.”

Columbus City Schools, Ohio Legal Rights Service Spar Over Seclusion Rooms

Last month the Ohio Legal Rights Service issued a report asserting that Columbus City Schools have misused seclusion rooms. The report found that seclusion was used as a way to punish children in rooms that often smelled of urine or had foot latches to lock students in. The report also found that staff is not [...]

Here’s Your Chance to Shape Ohio’s Seclusion and Restraint Policy

Tina M. Steele / Flickr Seclusion rooms are enclosed spaces that are supposed to be used to calm or restrain children who become violent. Seclusion — and restraint, or physical force used to control a child — are often used for children with disabilities. Seclusion and restraint are supposed to be used only in emergencies. But [...]

Report: Columbus School District Misused Seclusion Rooms

The Columbus school district has used its seclusion rooms — some as small as a closet, some reeking of urine or covered in spit — as a place to punish children with special needs, a state investigation has found. Some schools continue to use a type of physical restraint so dangerous that is banned in [...]

Indiana, Washington, D.C. Move to Regulate Use of Seclusion Rooms

Along with The Columbus Dispatch, we’ve reported on the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio schools. Seclusion rooms are enclosed spaces that are supposed to be used to calm or restrain children who become violent. There is little evidence that seclusion helps children but plenty of evidence that it hurts them. Their use is currently unregulated in [...]

Ohio Could Require Schools to Track Seclusion Rooms’ Use But Keep Details Secret

All schools will be required to track — and disclose — how often they are restraining or secluding children under a proposed state policy. But details about incidents, such as the reasons children are placed in seclusion rooms, would not be made public, according to a draft policy presented to a state Board of Education [...]

Week Ahead: School Report Cards, Seclusion and Restraint Policy and More

COMING UP THIS WEEK Monday, Tuesday: The state Board of Education meets. On the agenda: An update on the status of school report cards, discussion of a new policy on the use of seclusion and restraint in schools, decisions about the third grade reading guarantee, the Department of Education’s state budget proposal, and discussion on hiring a [...]

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