The state of Arizona has just passed a law to update their policy on the use of so-called “seclusion rooms” in schools, padded rooms where students, often special education students with behavioral issues, are sent to “cool down.”
Late last year, an Arizona family sued their local elementary school for locking their seven-year-old son in a 5-by-5 padded room for hours at a time, one time for so long that the boy wet himself. Their story brought national attention to the issue, and likely prompted the new Arizona law, which will require parental permission to use the rooms:
With the new law, Arizona will join more than 30 other states that impose rules on the restraint of students in public schools.
The use of tiny, windowless seclusion or isolation rooms in American classrooms was one focus of an ABC News investigation that aired on “Nightline” and “World News With Diane Sawyer” in November. The report found that seclusion was one of a range of harsh techniques being used in some American schools to restrain unruly students suffering from autism or other disabilities. [...]
The new Arizona law prohibits schools from using confinement on children unless their parents specifically consent to that form of discipline. [Arizona Governor Jan] Brewer called the measure “a starting point” in helping insure children are not harmed in school.
Until now, Arizona was one of six states (PDF) that had absolutely no laws on the books regarding seclusion. The others are Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Jersey, and South Dakota.
But even in states that do have some laws about seclusion, the practice can still be incredibly detrimental to a child’s mental health(PDF). In Ohio, there are some regulations on seclusion, but reports have surfaced that children were being put into closets to try to quell disruptive behavior, even when parents forbade it. A report from NPR State Impacts found that one in every 25 disabled students in Ohio was forced into seclusion.