Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education

School’s Heavy Use of ‘Timeouts’ Did Not Violate Student’s Rights, Court Rules

By Mark Walsh — August 08, 2008 1 min read

A school’s frequent placement of a disruptive special education student in a small room for “timeout” did not violate his constitutional rights, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The mother of a 1st grader in the Albuquerque, N.M., school district claimed in a lawsuit that placing her son in a small, dimly lighted room for five minutes or more at a time violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure and his 14th Amendment right of due process of law.

A federal district judge agreed, ruling that a teacher violated the boy’s clearly established rights by placing him in the “closet-like” timeout room without following proper procedures. The judge denied qualified immunity to the teacher and allowed the suit against the school district to proceed.

In its opinion in Couture v. Board of Education of the Albuquerque Public Schools, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, unanimously reversed the district judge and held that the timeouts did not violate the boy’s rights.

The court noted that teachers reported that the boy, who was in special education because of an emotional disturbance, was highly disruptive. He sometimes threatened to kill other children and once threatened to throw hot oil on one of his teachers, court papers say.

Supervised timeouts were authorized in the student’s individualized education plan as a technique to help calm the boy down, the court noted.

On the lawsuit’s Fourth Amendment claim, the court assumed without deciding that the timeouts constituted seizures, but it held that they were reasonable.

The boy’s “emotional problems posed an extremely difficult challenge,” the court said. “We refuse to say that given this situation, these diligent and well-trained teachers acted unreasonably in continuing to use timeouts, as prescribed by [his] IEP.”

The court also rejected a 14th Amendment procedural due-process claim, holding that the frequent timeouts were not the same as suspensions or expulsions from school.

“Timeouts, unlike suspensions or expulsions, are intended to settle down a child while keeping him within close proximity to the classroom; this way, he can resume his education as soon as he has calmed,” the court said.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Superintendent, Dublin Unified School District
Dublin, California (US)
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates
Superintendent, Dublin Unified School District
Dublin, California (US)
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates
ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT, HUMAN RESOURCES
Larkspur, California
Tamalpais Union High School District
Special Education Teachers
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read