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Locked away: Schools use crisis rooms in non-crises
Absent policies and laws, practices vary widely on locking up kids in Ohio's schools

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch
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Beginning Sunday, The Columbus Dispatch and the public radio reporting consortium StateImpact Ohio will be telling the story of what happens in one often-unexamined corner of Ohio schools – seclusion rooms.

StateImpact Editor M.L. Schultze spoke with reporters Jennifer Smith Richards, Molly Bloom and Ida Lieszkovszky about what they found during a months-long investigation into the purposes and practices associated with the rooms.

SCHULTZE: Overview from Jennifer Smith Richards, Molly Bloom, Ida Lieszkovszky

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The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio stories on the use of seclusion rooms begins Sunday. You can access the investigation by going to or
Listener Comments:

It's interesting how the attacks have become personal. If you would like to see what bullying looks like by a group holding themselves out as having a moral high ground, go look at the responses to my posts. Where because I have the audacity to express a different and legally and factually supported opinion, non interventionists, instead of backing up their own position, resort to name-calling. Apparently I am now a person that has a problem with, dislikes disabled students and thinks they are all discipline problems. Really!!

I happen to love disabled persons. What I don't love is people drawing lines for people other than themselves or trying to capture government in order to have government draw lines for them that infringe on other's peoples rights.

To clarify for the apparently reading impaired responders to my posts. There is nothing in my posts that endorses the use of unnecessary, excessive or abusive use of restraint or seclusion. My posts put forth a factually and legally supported argument that restraint and seclusion are useful tools when used appropriately. Even the people being interviewed by NPR agree.

My posts also put forth a facutal and legal argument backed by the Supreme Court, Federal Courts and the Constitution that it is not within either the Federal Government's or State's government's authority to regulate restraint and seclusion at the local level.

To clarify the record:
Re: GA Mom's comment I didn't say anything about sovereign immunity.
Re: Tee from GA - Are there some legitimate cases, sure. But a lot more cases are simply thrown out. If you want to get into listing court cases, I can list 20 to your 4 involving school districts who were forced to pay counsel to defend cases that the Court threw out.

Posted by: Advocateout (no location) on August 7, 2012 4:08AM
It is time for the archaic, unregulated abuse of seclusion and restraint in schools to end. We have got to end the discrimination against children with disabilities and start to educate the educators about how to appropriately modify behavior without harming children. With no laws in many states, it is like the wild west - no one is accountable for the abuse of our kids and anything seems to go when it comes to modifying behavior regardless of whether or not children are injured or die, whether or not the method has been proven effective or if it is humane.

Seclusion and Restraint have been proven to be both ineffective and traumatic to our children. There is NO evidence to prove that using seclusion and restraint are therapeutic. The fact remains is that there are evidenced based practices, such as positive behavior support and sensory, that do work to modify behavior. There are schools who are successfully educating children, who have severe behaviors, WITHOUT using seclusion and restraint. So why can't other schools do it? They also could go seclusion-free and possibly restraint free, if they would take the time to become educated on how to do so.

In addition to passing Senate Bill 2020, the Keeping All Children Safe Act, I would love to see cameras installed in every single classroom and area where our children are being taught. Then at the very least there will be evidence to be reviewed when our children are abused. Videotaping may not eliminate all abuse, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Posted by: Kym Grosso (PA) on August 6, 2012 6:08AM
We, the people are paying taxes in order for school districts to hire “Top Dog” attorneys to represent them, against us! Please read the following article, thank you!

School Districts' Attorneys Living Large At Public Expense

Well the San Francisco Chronicle is at it again. Not satisfied with the vile falsehoods it disseminated as "news" in Nanette Asimov's article, it has now published a lengthy op-ed piece from a California school administrator; the point of this piece is that parents' lawyers are draining school coffers in a relentless pursuit of special education cases. She apparently has not read the recent articles of school district's attorneys receiving blockbuster fees in losing cases that should have never gone to court, except for the bad judgment of the school administration and bad advice of the school district's attorneys.

In Oak Park, Illinois the local newspaper upbraided the school district for wasting taxpayer money at the rate of $350 per hour. The school district has spent thousands of dollars each year to fight unrepresented parents over mundane matters, racking up time fighting informal complaints and generally draining public coffers for matters that should not be controversial but became a struggle well out of proportion to any cost-benefit analysis.

In Baltimore where the school administration is facing jail for contempt of court and students are going without mandated services; the school district's attorneys have received over a million dollars in fees for a losing multi-decade long struggle to fight against the interests of students with special needs. [Download Baltimore School Legal Fees.doc ] Students lose, school district loses, but these large law firms who represent school district's prosper anyway.

The Deal case in Tennessee which went on for years at a cost of over $2 million in fees to the Weatherly Law Firm from Atlanta to fight a family's request for an aide for their child with autism. There was no possible justification for these expenditures of fees for this case where the school district lost again. The case ended only when the U.S. Supreme Court mercifully denied an appeal. Why should the Weatherly firm stop fighting, they get paid regardless, and sooner or later the parents are bound to go broke, or their lawyer will end up like John Travolta in "A Civil Action" sitting on the floor with no furniture and only a telephone.

The school district in Westport Connecticut, a very affluent community near New York City, has spent over $2 million in 6 years to fight parents of children with special needs, as reprinted in the Disability Law Blog. The New York Times described the town as metaphorically having a sign that reads "If You Have Special Needs Do Not Move Here." At the other end of the economic spectrum, the Ravenswood school district, in East Palo Alto California, one of the very poorest districts in the state, spent over $2 million on the Weatherly law firm, the same firm that had fattened itself on the losing Deal case above. The expenditures included first class travel and lavish accommodations while in town from Georgia. The Mercury News reported:

"that the Weatherly Law Firm, hired last year to defend Ravenswood in a special education lawsuit, charged the district serving the Peninsula's poorest children what amounts to $420 per student -- 5.5 percent of its annual budget. A new school board replaced the firm in December with county counsel charging $30,000 a year."

So now ask, who is living large at the public's expense ? The San Fransisco Chronicle needs to return to journalism premised on fact, not a jaundiced view of reality that is based on unfortunate fictions.

Posted by: Tee (GA) on August 4, 2012 12:08PM

You really sound like you have a problem with special needs children and just don't like our kids.

Our kids are not criminals or delinquents. They are children with disabilities that need help and understanding not restraint and seclusion.

Posted by: jensmom (Florida) on August 4, 2012 10:08AM
advocateout- It is precisely because of the attitudes such as yours that I consider public school a dangerous place for my disabled son. Clearly, you have decided that disabled children are dangerous discipline problems. We get to this place when we lower the qualifications of teachers around this county. Proper training in how to teach disabled kids and not treat them as discipline problems should be a no brainer. The teacher and other school staff end up resenting the disabled child for one reason: their lack of training and support. The disabled child did not ask to be sent to a school where those entrusted to care for him/her resent the child. The disabled child did not choose to be disabled. The disabled child did not choose to have 10 times the likelihood of abuse as their non disabled peers. The disabled child is the most vulnerable of all. If public schools do not wish to teach these children, then they need to return the federal funding they accept on their behalf. Trust me when I tell you, most parents don't want their child dropped off at school to suffer w out a voice day in and day out. If teachers are upset about the situation, then they need to complain to administration. Furthermore, while appreciate what most teachers do, we need to remember that their job is not martyrdom. They get more time off then the majority of the American population. Finally, if the child's needs were being met as IDEA requires, behaviors disappear.

Posted by: kidsrightsoverteachers on August 4, 2012 6:08AM

Posted by: kidsrightsoverteachers on August 4, 2012 5:08AM
Out from an actual self Autism Advocate not tax payer funded your argument has no validity on this issue with me. I was Restrained and Secluded. I have PTSD that resulted from my three year ordeal. It was founded that my school abused me in three lawsuits. I was never a threat to myself or another. It is not therapeutic. I don't care if a medical professional states they think it is because M.D. follows their name and they studied about people like me in a textbook for eight years. You don't know what it is like to literally be confined in a closet for 3-5 hours a day. Count the squares on the wall. Just waiting for a human being to come back and talk to you because you are starting to talk to yourself.To be a kid and have four full grown adults sit on you and it feels like your chest is caving in. You never resisted so why are they sitting on you? Why did they throw you down to the ground because you fell asleep at your desk?

If it was therapeutic then I wouldn't have flashbacks still eight years later. It is abuse pure and simple.

No state advocacy agency I have spoken with and I am National has changed their tune or opinion on this matter. Where ever you are getting your information from is wrong.

If it was so therapuetic for us as you have stated why isn't Jonathon King here to tell us it helped him to be in "Seclusion?" Oh yeah that's right he hung himself in the seclusion room and died.

Posted by: Helena Stephenson (Newark Ohio) on August 4, 2012 4:08AM
These advocates need some additional training. The mental hospitals either have, or are being strongly urged by nearly every national mental health organization to stop using seclusion because they do not do the job they were initially theorized to accomplish. They do not protect victims put into them, and they do not protect staff. Injuries are greater when seclusion rooms are part of the mix. Also the interviewees said thirty states have regulations about the use of seculsion. Not true In Nevada we banned the use of the rooms over 12 years ago. Not one single teacher has suffered as a result. And numerous children have been saved by a requirement to use preventative positive measure to support children, instead of torturing them. And as a supporter of people first, I can assure you survivors of these rooms, call it torture.

Posted by: Deidre (Reno NV) on August 4, 2012 1:08AM
The crisis intervention and restraint program in place at the school must meet the real safety and treatment needs of the school and “neither federal reimbursement practices nor state screening practices relieves the [school] of its responsibility to provide its [students] with necessary care and services.”
Advocateout- Are you implying sovereign immunity is some sort of mythical rhetoric? If so, you are either 1- Delusional, 2- District Employed Personnel or 3- An Attorney attempting to delude public awareness regarding legalized child abuse.
Regarding Seclusion/ Isolation/ Time-out rooms- Please review the following case. Even if you do not care about the safety of students, please note the reference regarding sovereign immunity.

Oral Argument in the Jonathan King case in the Court of Appeals on Monday, July 6, 2009. Jonathan King was a student in the school facility called Alpine where he was placed in a seclusion room after previously threatening suicide; he hung himself and died in the time out room.During the oral argument before the judges there was mention of "sovereign immunity" by the attorneys on both sides. In a nutshell, sovereign immunity is the legal privilege by which the American federal and state governments cannot be sued. This child had repeatedly been placed in the time out room and for up to 7 hours at a time.

Posted by: GAmom (Georgia) on August 4, 2012 1:08AM
To Systemic Advocate,

Are you kidding me with that link. Jessica Butler trying to poke holes in AASA's document by referring to the documents produced by NDRN and TASH is like the pot calling the kettle black.

On a quick scan of NDRN’s Restraint Report, we were at a loss trying to find any reference to experienced clinicians, Medical Doctors, statistics or medical studies to support most if not all of the assumptions presented.

Neither NDRN’s staff nor its 6-figure salaried CEO, Curt Decker, has the qualifications or the scientific evidence to support the legislation they are proposing.

Not to mention that education is not one of the enumerated Federal government functions

The statistics being used by no intervention advocates (NDRN and TASH) are not indicative. These groups claim that special needs students represent approximately 14% of the population, but account for approximately 22% of the restraints. While this might be true, the more relevant statistic is that while special needs students represent approximately 14% of the population, they account for approximately 38-42% of the incidents that generally require physical intervention.

Teachers are not legally obligated to become punching bags
See: Attacking Our Educators

Posted by: advocateout (No location) on August 4, 2012 1:08AM
Correction: the last comment was to Matt in GA, not systemic advocate. Sorry about that.

Posted by: advocateout (No location) on August 4, 2012 1:08AM
Dear M.L.,
Thank you for the article and interview getting this abusive treatment more out in the open.

I'm sorry to say that this abuse is happening all over the United State in many schools and school districts continue to get away with it. My son who was 45 pounds at the time was restrained and put into seclusion for 2 years without our knowledge and it almost destroyed him mentally. We knew something was going on because he was changing before our eyes and coming home with bruises but no one at the school would tell us anything they were doing to him. We found out a year after we pulled him out of school because he had a breakdown) Six years later he is still not the same so why did the school district do this to my son? (We never had to use any of this abusive treatments on our son at home) They also had to see it was making him worse so why did they continue abusing him? Restraint and seclusion is abusive and is over used for non emergency reasons!

Ohio is not different from many other states.


Families Against restraint and Seclusion

Posted by: Phyllis (Florida) on August 3, 2012 12:08PM
advocate out- you are misleading when you write that the ABAI finds seclusion rooms therapeutic. First, public schools can never dare compare themselves to a highly trained Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Public school staff have not training in evidence based methods such as ABA although they are required by federal law to do so. Instead you just hear whining from teachers who don't want to do more work, so of course it is much easier to lock a kid in a closet and still reap those federal funds. Using a time out procedure in ABA is only used when other less intrusive methods have not worked and if it is used at all it is used temporarily and when there is a risk of imminent harm. The BCBAs who use ABA actually utilize a real functional analysis and implement interventions with fidelity.

Let's not forget the real point of this interview: seclusion was used as respite for the teachers and mainly in non emergency situations-try doing that to a non disabled child!

Posted by: Lisa (FL) on August 3, 2012 11:08AM
To FL Mom,

Let me direct you to the definition of therapeutic which means "serving or performed to maintain health." Health is both physical and mental health. If a student is harming self or others and restraint or seclusion is used to prevent a child or student from injuring self or another, the seclusion or restraint used is by definition "therapeutic."

Also, AASA (American Association of School Administrators) just came out with a report showing that ABAI and John Hopkins to name a few have stated that restraint when done correctly is therapeutic.

Posted by: advocateout (No location) on August 3, 2012 9:08AM
It’s Time to Protect America’s Children,
But the AASA’s New Restraint and Seclusion Survey
and Report Are Deeply Flawed and Not Representative Survey Deeply Flawed July 12 2012_2.pdf

Posted by: Matt (Georgia) on August 3, 2012 9:08AM
There is nothing Therapeutic about restraint and seclusion.. This is what it looks like and this is what is being done to children as young as 3 and 4 in the public school system.
"America's Forgotten Children" Restraint

Posted by: Systemic Advocate (United States of America) on August 3, 2012 8:08AM
Restraint and Seclusion Brochure

A helpful resource from the National Autism Association. It includes tips for parents, students, and educators on safe and ethical use of physical restraint procedures. Restraint Brochure.pdf

Posted by: Cristina (Texas) on August 3, 2012 6:08AM
"advocateout" does not have a clue as to what he/she is talking about.

I guarantee you that NO state or national advocate organizations are changing their tune.

Restraint and seclusion has never been therapeutic and never will be. It's an outdated
treatment that has been stopped in most hospital programs but still going on in public schools.

It amazes me that anyone in their right mind would ever think that restraint and seclusion could ever be called therapeutic.

The Cost of Waiting

Posted by: FLmom (Florida) on August 3, 2012 6:08AM
I whole heartedly agree that these rooms are grossly over used. The majority of students who are placed in seclusion rooms/isolation rooms are not an imminent danger to themselves or others.

Angry adults should never be allowed to place their hands on a child, restrain a child, or place a child inside of a closet sized seclusion room, unless it is a life or death situation.
If a parent treated their children in such an inhumane manner, the state would arrest the parent for child abuse, prosecuted and most likely convicted for their crimes. However school employed personnel are rarely held accountable for crimes of abuse perpetrated against our most vulnerable disabled students, by claiming sovereign immunity and having the right to act in loco parentis.

My son, who weighed 68 lbs. at the time and could not communicate, was physically, verbally and emotionally abused by school district employed personnel. My child was evaluated by his Pediatrician and a Forensic Psychiatrist, who both stated he was victimized by verbal, emotional and physical abuse “allegedly” perpetrated by school personnel and placed him on hospital homebound services for his safety. Yet our local P.D., Sheriff’s Department, and District Attorney would not arrest or prosecute his abusers because they are employed by the state.

Convicted felons and animals have laws protecting them from abuse, yet disabled children, many of whom can’t communicate effectively do not. There is right and wrong, this is wrong.

Thank you for creating awareness regarding legalized child abuse and being a voice for children who do not have one of their own.

Georgia Families Against Restraint and Seclusion

Posted by: Sheree (Georgia) on August 3, 2012 2:08AM
With respect to your introduction - we have a clarification. The law is that it is the individual school that has a duty to the student. According to Supreme Court precedent and Federal Court holdings:

The crisis intervention and restraint program in place at the school must meet the real safety and treatment needs of the school and “neither federal reimbursement practices nor state screening practices relieves the [school] of its responsibility to provide its [students] with necessary care and services.”

So while the advocates, in typical fashion, are calling for a nanny state, according to the law the taxpayer-funded advocates are supposed to be upholding and promoting, it is really the duty and responsibility of the individual school to determine their own needs and set up a policy that suits the needs of the school and its students.

So, if you are going to do a series on restraint and seclusion, you may want to go outside the taxpayer funded advocacy groups preaching a pre-set talking-point agenda to support their continued financing and instead research some of the actual law on the subject, not just one particular viewpoint.

To illustrate how the facts regarding this subject have been abused in the past to promote a political objective. It has recently been reported and published that ABAI (the leading organization in behavior analysis) and John Hopkins (to name a few) have taken the position that seclusion and restraint done correctly is therapeutic. So the leading evidence, research, practices and authorities on the subject are in direct opposition to the lawyers being cited to on your program who are promoting a political agenda.

Faced with opposition from the leading experts and public opinions, the advocates have just recently changed their tune regarding the use of restraint and seclusion as prior they were calling all uses "untherapeutic" and a "therapeutic failure" and calling for an outright ban. Thus their tune changes at the drop of a hat and where their next handout is coming from, not from any legitimate research, practice or expertise.

Posted by: advocateout (No Location) on August 3, 2012 2:08AM
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