Seclusion Rooms in the News - 11/13/12

Submitted by Tim on Tue, 11/13/2012 - 03:57 PM

Various ABC shows have been covering the use of seclusion rooms in Connecticut.  These rooms are used to isolate and discipline children with special needs. Depending on their available time, Nightline may include coverage this evening. ABC News has some video here. Seclusion rooms are a complicated issue under the law. Georgia has some relatively recent rules on seclusion and restraint, but there is no blanket prohibition. Still, I think that there are many strong legal arguments against use of seclusion and restraint in all but the most extreme cases.  

First, there's fairly little evidence that seclusion rooms reduce the frequency of problem behavior going forward. Second, the rooms can be dangerous - concrete walls, little teacher supervision, and tantruming children do not make a good mix. Finally, secluding children does nothing to educate them, which violates the basic principles of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.  

On a side note, the video includes some foot of one mother getting very upset at a school board meeting. Her emotions are totally understandable because the school district does not seem to care about educating her child, but behavior like that often hurts more than it helps. It is not fair, but courts will judge parents for failing to maintain their cool. And school officials will get defensive rather than focusing on the important issues.

As I've said before, the substantive standards of the IDEA can be quite low, so it is important to manage your expectations going into an IEP or Section 504 meeting in order to make it easier for the school district to focus on what is most important in providing a decent plan to educate your child.

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