Story Summary

School isolation rooms

When behavior becomes violent and a student is at risk of hurting themselves or others, some school districts place children in what’s known as a quiet or isolation room if they have the parents’ permission.

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isolationBELLEVUE — In recent months, the use of isolation rooms in schools has outraged a lot of parents.

The rooms are used for special needs students who act out.

The Washington Legislature is requiring school districts to come up with policies on how to use restraints and isolation techniques. So the Bellevue School Board came up with a plan, but parents there say they need to go back to the drawing board.

“It’s going to kill somebody,” said parent Cathy McVay to the school board. “It’s going to hurt somebody. The long-term effects on these kids, it’s traumatizing.”

Parents are concerned about the vague language around the new policy, which includes not only the use of isolation rooms, but restraint techniques, including handcuffs, Tasers and pepper spray.

“We’re concerned about the safety and well-being of our precious children,” said parent Jennifer Carls.

 

According to the state, isolation and restraints should be used only if there is a clear and present danger to the child or other students, but the Bellevue plan states they can be used if there is unpredicted, spontaneous behavior.

One mother told the school board, “Putting in language like this will only give permission to some staff members to just do what’s convenient and not right.”

School board members explained the Bellevue plan is part of the state’s requirement.

“There was a policy missing and we needed to have something to bound these issues,” said Christine Chew, a school board member. “I know the comments we’ve heard tonight will affect what we’re doing.”

The comments from parents did, ultimately, have an effect.

The school board decided not to vote on the plan. Instead, they tabled it, and plan on discussing it some more over the summer before coming to a decision next fall.

isolationLONGVIEW, Wash. — The Longview School District is investigating the use of padded isolation rooms for behaviorally disabled students, the school district announced Wednesday.

Use of an isolation booth at Mint Valley Elementary School in Longview was suspended last week after media reports were widely circulated on social media sites, officials said. The padded booth was dismantled and removed from the special education room. Instead, an “isolation area” including wooden partitions and bean bag chairs was created.

The district is currently exploring the construction of a new “calming room” that would meet legal requirements and student’ educational plans.

The school district plans to work with families of students who used the booth to make sure both the students’ and family’s needs are met moving forward, officials said. A statement released by Sandy Catt, the district’s communication and technology director, said an investigation into the use of the isolation rooms was currently under way.

“Given the attention this issue created in social media, the district wants the community to be confident that the investigation into access to the isolation booth is fair, impartial and complete,” Catt said. “The district is asking an outside investigator to continue to gather information. A date for completion of the investigation is not known at this time.”

Local News
11/29/12

Longview School District suspends use of padded room for kids

paddedroomBURLINGTON, Wash. — The Longview School District on Thursday suspended the use of a padded isolation booth for children at Mint Valley Elementary School that has sparked controversy.

“The district is gathering information and investigating incidents of the booth’s use,” district spokeswoman Sandy Catt said.

Several parents have complained about the room, and there are concerns that students who are not in special-needs classes have been put in the room as a disciplinary measure.

Q13 FOX News got a tour of a similar room in the Burlington School District on Thursday.

“If the public sees them and has concerns, that`s appropriate,” said the Burlington district’s head psychologist, Jeff Brown. “If they were used inappropriately, there certainly could be negative consequences.”

Brown says in Burlington, that`s not the case. The “calming” rooms are only in classrooms for special-needs students, and they are only a last resort for kids who may lash out violently at teachers or other students.

“At the point where you may be utilizing that room, you’re left with almost two options,” said Brown. “Do I physically lay hands on this student or do I have a place where the student can go through their escalation cycle?”

Alex Ellsworth, 11, is bipolar and has attention deficit disorder. He was one of the special-needs students who used the room.

“He could get very violent and he was hitting people, kicking people,” said Deborah Ellsworth, Alex’s mother. “It helped him to sit in the room and de-escalate before anybody got hurt.”

“It felt better to be in there than out in the classroom with other kids because it was easier for me to calm down,” Alex said.

The room has magnetic locks, so if a teacher steps away, the door unlocks. There is also a mirror so teachers don’t lose sight of the child.

Brown said the room is rarely used, and only with a parent’s permission.

“It gives them (children) a chance to work through their frustration, calm down to the point where we can sit in there, have a conversation with them, and then work through our process to bring them back out and continue their education.”

EARLIER STORY FROM WEDNESDAY:

isolationAs the director of the Washington Autism Alliance, Arzu Forough hears a lot of bad stories about special needs students being mistreated in school.

When behavior becomes violent and a student is at risk of hurting themselves or others, Forough said, a teacher can put a child in what’s known as a quiet or isolation room if they have the parents’ permission.

“The rooms I’ve seen are either three-quarter doors or have large windows where the child is visible to the staff member,” Forough said. “There are either bean bags in there or something comfortable for the student to sit on.”

But Forough said the room is a lot different from the padded room being used at Mint Valley Elementary School in Longview.  A concerned parent posted photos of the room after her son told her he saw teachers putting special needs students in the booth for simple things like crying and tapping on their desks.

The district insists the room isn’t used as punishment.

“It is not used as punishment,” said Sandy Catt, communications director for the Longview School District. “It is used as a treatment in lieu of a physical hold or accepted therapeutic restraint for a child.”

Forough feels many districts across the country are out of touch when it comes to working with special needs students. She said rural districts especially may lack the funding for staff and training.

Catt said the children put in the isolation room in Longview all come from a classroom of nine special needs student with a teacher and two aides. The parents of all nine children gave permission for their child to be put in this isolation room, Catt said, and none have complained about its use.

In light of this story, the district is checking in with each of those families to see if they have any concerns.

Seattle Public Schools does not have any isolation rules, but the Kent School District has 14 of them.  In April, an elementary school in Olympia came under fire after a child was allegedly left in an isolation room for hours.

In order for a review of Mint Valley Elementary to happen, State Schools Superintendent Randy Dorn’s office said it would have to receive a formal complaint alleging the school violated state or federal special education laws.

As the director of the Washington Autism Alliance, Arzu Forough hears a lot of bad stories about special needs students being mistreated in school.

When behavior becomes violent and a student is at risk of hurting themselves or others, Forough said, a teacher can put a child in what’s known as a quiet or isolation room if they have the parents’ permission.

“The rooms I’ve seen are either three-quarter doors or have large windows where the child is visible to the staff member,” Forough said. “There are either bean bags in there or something comfortable for the student to sit on.”

But Forough said the room is a lot different from the padded room being used at Mint Valley Elementary School in Longview.  A concerned parent posted photos of the room after her son told her he saw teachers putting special needs students in the booth for simple things like crying and tapping on their desks.

The district insists the room isn’t used as punishment.

“It is not used as punishment,” said Sandy Catt, communications director for the Longview School District. “It is used as a treatment in lieu of a physical hold or accepted therapeutic restraint for a child.”

Forough feels many districts across the country are out of touch when it comes to working with special needs students. She said rural districts especially may lack the funding for staff and training.

Catt said the children put in the isolation room in Longview all come from a classroom of nine special needs student with a teacher and two aides. The parents of all nine children gave permission for their child to be put in this isolation room, Catt said, and none have complained about its use.

In light of this story, the district is checking in with each of those families to see if they have any concerns.

Seattle Public Schools does not have any isolation rules, but the Kent School District has 14 of them.  In April, an elementary school in Olympia came under fire after a child was allegedly left in an isolation room for hours.

In order for a review of Mint Valley Elementary to happen, State Schools Superintendent Randy Dorn’s office said it would have to receive a formal complaint alleging the school violated state or federal special education laws.

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