StateImpact Ohio‘s three-part series on the use–and misuse–of seclusion in public schools is already making waves and starting conversations around the state and the country.
Since its launch on Sunday, August 5, the story has been picked up by the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Associated Press, the San Francisco Chronicle and Palm Beach Post. It also garnered mentions from ProPublica and the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ blog, Extra! Extra!.
On Thursday, StateImpact Florida did its own follow-up to the story, exploring the use of seclusion in that state’s public school system.
StateImpact Ohio’s Molly Bloom and Ida Lieszkovszky collaborated with The Columbus Dispatch‘s Jennifer Smith Richards on the investigation, which included more than 100 public records requests, visits to a number of schools and dozens of interviews.
They discovered that 40 of those schools use seclusion, many with little guidance or oversight. Several of the schools had no formal policy about when or how the rooms should be used or how parents should be notified when their child is placed in seclusion. The rooms are often used as a way of handling special needs children. They are intended to be a means of calming children who become upset or violent. But, with little or no training, educators are also using the rooms as a form of punishment.
The series, Locked Away, includes:
• A detailed report outlining the findings of the investigation.
• Two broadcast stories exploring the issue for listeners, featuring the voices and perspectives of students who have experienced seclusion.
• An online-only story on the state’s long-delayed efforts to regulate seclusion.
• A school-by-school sortable table that allows users to find out exactly where their schools stand on the issue, if their school was one of the 100 queried.
• A do-it-yourself guide to filing an open records request, so that readers can continue the investigation. Hundreds more schools remain to be contacted about their use of seclusion rooms, and readers are encouraged to do that and share any documents they receive with StateImpact Ohio, which will then add that school to its online database.
• Finally, in the interest of transparency, the series also includes a Document Cloud-supported page highlighting several common trends found in school incident reports. That page also allows users to read school incident logs themselves by clicking on the highlighted excerpts.
• Several follow-up stories, including one on how teachers are trained — or not trained—to use seclusion.
The StateImpact Ohio team will continue to follow this important conversation as it develops.