A Teacher’s View on Seclusion

By Christina A. Samuels — January 12, 2009 1 min read

I wrote a blog post in December that referred to a CNN.com report on seclusion in schools. A poster called “NYS Teacher” posted a comment yesterday that I thought was worth bringing to the top:

You know...this really makes me mad! We have had 'chill rooms' as you call them, for years. In some cases, we have had to use restraint. What are we supposed to do as Teachers??? Any ideas?? Do we allow students to throw things at us, spit at us, hit us, kick us, pinch us, bite us, punch us, use an instrument to attack us? If it was in the community, we would have them arrested, would we not? And these things go on in a classroom with other students! And these things are also done to students in our classrooms! Is that okay for a student to bodily harm others? Come on people!! In my opinion, as a Teacher, I am to keep the student safe and the other students safe as well. AND... do you think that we don't have other strategies that we use BEFORE the escalation of the behaviors occur?? We are all taught to de-escalate the behaviors!!!! BUT sometimes with our best taught training, our strategies still do not work and a child HAS to be taken to the 'chill room' for his/her benefit or the benefit of the other students. Without a 'chill room' where would the student go to talk his/her anger out? Once he/she is under control and able to express his feelings then he/she is able to return to the classroom. We do not use seclusion rooms, but have well-trained staff to handle such situations. Special Education is individualized education for a reason!

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, NYS Teacher. I think part of the issue here is defining terms. What is a “chill room” in New York state (I’m assuming that’s where this poster is from)? Is a student in that room monitored? Are there rules about how long he or she should stay there, or how often he or she should be sent there? What kind of training do teachers get to de-escalate violent behavior? What kind of training do teachers get who are using restraints? Are parents notified when these options are used with their children?

If a student is left alone in a room long enough to hang himself, as was noted in the CNN story, or if she’s restrained so severely that she suffocates, as 17-year-old Faith Finley did earlier last month, something is going terribly wrong.

Do teachers feel that they have the full range of tools to de-escalate a situation, or prevent a “situation” from occurring in the first place? Is seclusion/restraint a first choice, instead of a last resort?

Teachers and parents, feel free to jump in and add your thoughts.

Edited 1/13: A reader emailed me the regulations in New York state for use of time-out rooms and “aversive interventions” like restraint.

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