Eye on Education

ACLU Calls for Phasing Out Use of Seclusion, Restraint in Ohio Schools By 2016

Ohio Legal Rights Service

A seclusion room at Beatty Park Elementary School in Columbus has a peephole in the door.

The ACLU of Ohio is asking the Ohio Department of Education to phase out the use of seclusion and restraint in Ohio schools by 2016. In the meanwhile, schools should have to report to the state how they use seclusion and restraint and give parents a way to file complaints if they believe seclusion or restraint is misused, the ACLU says.

Seclusion rooms are enclosed spaces that are supposed to be used in emergency situations to restrain children who become violent. They’re often used on children with disabilities. But a 2012 investigation by The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio found that the rooms are instead sometimes used to punish children or as a convenience for staff.

In Ohio, no state law governs seclusion rooms, and the Ohio Department of Education has provided little guidance and virtually no oversight to schools.

“As recent media coverage has shown, Ohio schools currently have little, if any, oversight on the use of seclusion rooms,” said ACLU of Ohio Policy Director Shakyra Diaz. “Drafting a policy is the first step, but to be effective, this policy must set clear goals to end the use of seclusion rooms in favor of a better system.”

The Ohio Department of Education and state Board of Education are currently developing a policy on how seclusion and restraint may be used in schools. Once approved, that policy is scheduled to take effect for the 2013-14 school year. The ACLU and other groups responded to the department’s request for feedback on that draft policy.

The draft policy would not ban the use of seclusion or restraint. But it would require that they only be used in cases of “immediate threat of physical harm.”

The draft policy would also apply only to traditional public schools, and not to charter schools, private schools, or educational service centers. A significant number of children with disabilities are enrolled in charter schools and programs operated by educational service centers.

The Ohio Department of Education has said that it does not believe it has the authority to require charter schools to adopt policies on the use of seclusion and restraint.

Other changes to the draft policy the ACLU is calling for include:

  • Requiring an examination by a doctor or nurse after each incident of seclusion or restraint;
  • Annual reviews of specific data on the use of seclusion and restraint;
  • Immediate notification to parents and administrators of seclusion or retraint lasting longer than 15 minutes; and
  • A formal grievance procedure that allows for anonymous reporting.

While the draft policy is being finalized, the Ohio Department of Education has not given schools direction about how to use seclusion and restraint.

“It seems like it would be beneficial to a school district to not involve themselves in this until a policy is in place,” Diaz said.

Ohio Department of Education spokesperson John Charlton said in a written statement, “The Department of Education appreciates the suggestions from the ACLU, we will consider them along with the other comments we received during the public comment period.”

We’ve asked the department for copies of those comments and will share them once we receive them.

ACLU of Ohio Comments on Draft Seclusion/Restraint Policy


  • gregmild

    If the rooms are indeed so awful that they need to be eliminated completely, why would the ACLU be advocating for their use in any capacity over the next three years? Isn’t the use of the rooms an all-or-nothing proposition that either calls for the immediate termination of their use in all instances or concedes that these rooms can serve a purpose in extreme cases? To call for the eventual elimination of these rooms at a point in time years away seems to halfheartedly claim that they are bad for children, but that using them for the next three years will be okay. Does the ACLU not care if some children would be harmed in that time frame or do they not actually think the rooms are too harmful?

    • Misty

      AGREE totaly.Do you know if anyone important can see these posts to help get the word out to ACLU on how people feel about these kinds of situations??

  • Misty

    WHY would they allow these rooms in any school setting private or public?? If it’s not good for the public school children it shouldn’t be good for the private school children. One child is just as important as another no matter what the disability. COME ON ACLU get it together for ALL the children PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.

    • duckmonkeyman

      Misty, Children with disabilities include older students with emotional issues. I have seen a 250lb student “snap” with no warning requiring 3 police officers and a taser to control the situation – after sending one teacher to the hospital and injuring two others. At one school, teachers were constantly injured. Younger students can even be difficult to control for elementary teachers and risk injury to teachers or other students. “Diversionary Methods” work – to a point. One student would become quickly violent with a simple hand gesture and no amount of diversion can predict some situations. Even “typical” students can lose control depending on the situation.
      Would you and the ACLU risk the safety of other students? Obviously the well-being of teachers doesn’t mean much anymore in Ohio. How would you handle such classroom activities dealing with scissors, pencils, and other risky objects? What DO you do with students who lose control and maintain classroom order and safety? Maybe you have to be there to understand.
      If the ACLU wins, it will just mean more procedures the schools must follow, more training, and likely that parents will be called to take the students home – something parents hate.

  • Misty

    Further more to add on why these rooms should be banded, schools who use them at all will lie and say it was emergancy situation to put children in it and no one but them will no the truth. Special needs children along with their families have no voice or is it that they do and no one will HEAR them??????

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 »