Eye on Education

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

Courtney Hergesheimer / The Columbus Dispatch

A "time-out" room in the Middletown school district is has a two-way mirror.

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 committee yesterday.

That type of information was the basis for a recent investigation by The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio. The investigation, “Locked Away,” was published in August and found that seclusion rooms in Ohio schools often are misused.

In many schools, the investigation found, children were locked in closets, cell-like rooms or old offices — sometimes for hours at a time — even when they weren’t posing a risk to employees or other students.

This report is a collaborative effort by The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio. See more at Dispatch.com and on the StateImpact Ohio website.

Further, the rules wouldn’t apply to charter schools. That’s because Ohio Department of Education officials don’t believe they have the authority, spokesman John Charlton said.

The policy doesn’t describe what seclusion rooms should look like, though it says they shouldn’t be locked.

The policy would require schools to “greatly reduce, and in most cases, eliminate” the use of restraint or seclusion by instead handling emotional issues without force. It would require schools to show they’re secluding students only in worst-case scenarios in which children are too physically threatening to other people to remain in classrooms. Seclusion rooms are most often used for students with special needs, particularly those with emotional or behavioral problems.

Some special-needs advocates wanted the policy to outlaw seclusion in schools. The draft also allows certain types of restraint that advocates say are dangerous, said the Ohio Legal Rights Service, a state agency that works to protect people with disabilities.

“Children will be hurt or worse — there will be those who die,” Legal Rights Executive Director Michael Kirkman said in a statement.

There is no federal or state rule or policy that dictates when, how often or why schools may seclude or restrain children. And there’s no requirement that schools develop any rules.

The seclusion and restraint rules have been in the works for several years and were prompted by the death of a child from a dangerous restraint in 2008.

The final policy on seclusion and restraint won’t be adopted by the state board until December, with specific rules to be finalized in March, state officials said.

Draft Seclusion and Restraint Policy

[Read the draft policy, as presented to a state Board of Education committee on Tuesday. ]


  • Gwen

    Seclusion rooms should be illegal. If the child is at risking of harming themselves or others call the mobile crisis unit. If do not outlaw, MUST notify parents immediately and file a OPEN report. Come on, even in residential facilities, medical personnel (who are highly trained) must document everything and this records are open to patient and parents if underage.

  • Steven Camron

    Does State Board “policy” in Ohio actually have the force-of-law? It doesn’t in Michigan, and may therefore be unenforcible.

    • M_Bloom

      Good point. The state Department of Education is also proposing an administrative rule modeled on the policy. It’s my understanding that the Administrative Code does have the force of law.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »