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School Climate & Safety

Seclusion and Special Education

By Christina A. Samuels — December 17, 2008 1 min read

CNN has an excellent article on its website about the use of seclusion rooms in schools; it’s a must-read. It starts with an anecdote about a 13-year-old with behavior problems and ADHD who hanged himself after being put in a seclusion room. It also explores what is known--and not known--about the use of seclusion or “time out” rooms across the country.

Dr. Veronica Garcia, New Mexico's education secretary, said her state had found more sophisticated and better ways to solve behavior problems. Garcia, whose brother is autistic, said, "The idea of confining a child in a room repeatedly and as punishment, that's an ethics violation I would never tolerate." But researchers say that the rooms, in some cases, are being misused and that children are suffering. Public schools in the United States are now educating more than half a million more students with disabilities than they did a decade ago, according to the National Education Association. "Teachers aren't trained to handle that," said Dr. Roger Pierangelo, executive director of the National Association of Special Education Teachers. "When you have an out-of-control student threatening your class -- it's not right and it can be very damaging -- but seclusion is used as a 'quick fix' in many cases." Former Rhode Island special education superintendent Leslie Ryan told CNN that she thought she was helping a disabled fifth-grader by keeping him in a "chill room" in the basement of a public elementary school that was later deemed a fire hazard. "All I know is I tried to help this boy, and I had very few options," Ryan said. After the public learned of the room, she resigned from her post with the department but remains with the school.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.