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.
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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.
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.