HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » "Isolation Rooms&quo...

Fri Nov 30, 2012, 06:45 AM

"Isolation Rooms" in Elementary Schools: Are They Treatment or Punishment?


A Washington state public elementary school is under fire over its use of a "isolation room"--a small padded box that, to many, appears similar to solitary confinement boxes used inside prisons.

The school district has explained that the room is designed to be a calming space for children with severe behavioral disabilities, and that no student placed in the "isolation room" without written permission from his or her parents.

However, a handful of parents and grandparents have told a local news station that their children were also placed in the "isolation room" without parental permission, sparking intense questions around whether the room is a method of intense therapeutic treatment for some of the school district's most disabled students or whether it has also become a form of punishment for any child that is acting out in the classroom.

The school district said that, so far, no parents have complained about the use of the isolation room.

The controversy began when a mother of one student at the school posted photos of the isolation room on Facebook. The photos and her outraged description of the room went viral, sparking a local news investigation. The reports discovered that the use of isolation rooms in public schools is fairly widespread in this area of southwest Washington, but that all schools say that only special-needs students whose parents have approved the treatment use the rooms.

8 replies, 2229 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 8 replies Author Time Post
Reply "Isolation Rooms" in Elementary Schools: Are They Treatment or Punishment? (Original post)
xchrom Nov 2012 OP
Are_grits_groceries Nov 2012 #1
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #3
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #2
Are_grits_groceries Nov 2012 #8
Hubert Flottz Nov 2012 #4
MadHound Nov 2012 #5
HereSince1628 Nov 2012 #6
liberal_at_heart Nov 2012 #7

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Nov 30, 2012, 07:04 AM

1. What do you do with a kid that

is acting out uncontrollably for whatever reason? Restraining them physically is dangerous and opens the personnel up to lawsuits. They call it a cell which it is in some respects. However, padded quiet areas have been used in several places. One problem is making sure it's continually monitored and time limits used.

I saw this several days ago and have been thinking about it. Any staff needs to have specific training in handling students like this. In addition, experts who have studied these problems and have tried solutions should be consulted.

There was one video showing a staff member zapping a kid with 60v. Is that type of behavior modification something that should be used? In addition they tied one kid to the floor spread-eagle. Then something happened. I had trouble processing the tie down. I cannot imagine that these techniques would be recommended.

Only 7 states have laws that protect children from some punitive measures. Gawd knows what happens in other places.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to Are_grits_groceries (Reply #1)

Fri Nov 30, 2012, 08:04 AM

3. The city in question has a special education program with trained staff -- which is mandated


by law.

I think the video you're talking about, of children being 'zapped,' was not from this school, correct?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Nov 30, 2012, 07:56 AM

2. From the local paper in the district in question (last names removed)


Niki --- of Longview said before her daughter... used the booth, she was notorious as one of the worst children in the district...When Star, who is autistic, came to the family as a foster child 2 1/2 years ago, “she would physically attack us nine or 10 times a day,” Favela said. “She would throw chairs, books, hit, kick, head-butt. The adrenaline in her little body was overwhelming. ... She didn’t have control. She didn’t know how to calm herself down.”

Star learned how to self-regulate her emotions and her body in isolation, Favela said. Star used the booth “as a way to keep her and other students safe until she could calm down,” Favela said. “Today, Star is a much different child. She’s in a regular fourth-grade class and has the ability to use the isolation booth of her own free will. Sometimes she just needs a break from the outside world to collect her thoughts. Sometimes the noise is overwhelming and she just needs quiet....“To the outside world it seems extreme,” but without the program “our daughter would not have same opportunities as everyone else..."

A Longview parent of two special-needs children said Wednesday that her older child, 10, used the booth once in the last school year and has not needed it this year...“Before I had signed the written agreement for (her older son) to be able to be in there, he was very out of control and he had to be held in the office,” she said. When she arrived, he had been banging his head on the wall, wrapping himself in cords and throwing shoes at the teachers who did not have the legal paperwork to restrain him, she said.

“All they could do was ask him to stop and put their hands between his head and the wall,” she said. She said the people need to educate themselves on the issue before criticizing the use of isolation. “It’s not for every child,” Jessica said. “It’s for children who need it to keep themselves safe, the staff safe and every child in that room safe. When I had to restrain my own son at home, he head-butted my ribs so hard they were bruised. I couldn’t take a breath without hurting for six months.”

Catt, the school district spokeswoman, said that before Tuesday, the district had never received a complaint about the booth, the only one in the district. It formerly was kept at Columbia Heights Elementary before being moved to Mint Valley four years ago....the Longview district’s director of special education, estimated that eight or nine students use the booth in varying frequencies....


Schools are mandated to educate students with behavioral disabilities, and some of them harm others or self-harm. If adults restrain them physically they can harm the child or themselves and can be sued. If the school refuses to admit them unless they behave, they can be sued. I'm not sure what the good alternative is.

Washington school funding has been declining for years & it is now one of the most poorly-funded states in the union. Median household income in Longview is $35K & the poverty rate is 17%.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to HiPointDem (Reply #2)

Fri Nov 30, 2012, 02:08 PM

8. No, the zapping was another school district.

That and the tie down left me gobsmacked.

The quiet room not so much. When autistic kids get overstimulated, they need a calm place to be. If a child isn't autistic, that is still a safer option than physical restraint. I want it used properly, but parents need to think about and understand the basis for it.

They talked to one little girl who was nauseatingly cute, and she knew it. She played to the camera while declaring what an evil place that room was. I'll bet she's a handful and doesn't like it one bit. I'm not sure she would like the alternatives.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Nov 30, 2012, 08:12 AM

4. John Lennon wrote a song about

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Nov 30, 2012, 08:20 AM

5. If it is properly equipped, properly monitored, and the staff are properly trained


With clear guidelines about when and when not to use it, they can be a helpful tool in dealing with students who have lost control.

Should teachers go to work in the morning resigned to the fact that they're going to get punched, kicked, bit and otherwise hurt? Even a small child can do damage, and if you're dealing with a large seventh or eighth grader, forget it.

Remember, teachers can't defend themselves when a child goes off, at least not without seriously risking a lawsuit and losing their teaching license. So what are teachers supposed to do? Sit there are take it, getting beaten to a pulp? Hell, even restraining a child can lead to a lawsuit that will, at best, cost them money to defend themselves and could wind up impoverishing them.

Can these rooms be abused, yes. But overall, given the nature of schools and kids these days, they are a necessary tool.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Nov 30, 2012, 09:37 AM

6. As a taxpayer, I'd have concerns and want more answers.

I mostly agree with the parent who made the complaint...a child whose problems are serious enough for this 'therapy' may need services that exceed the capacity of a public school setting. Whatever the pubic school provides must be carefully considered and properly implemented.

The box seems to be in an area used for storage, so school workers may not normally be in the room. The 2 peepholes for monitoring its interior mean there isn't a way to casually observe the interior of the box while walking by or doing other tasks. Provision for constant monitoring seems critically important when the behavior disorders that justify the box's use include danger to themself.

The box has no provision for sanitation. It's not clear if the door which 'could be locked from the outside', usually is. It's not obvious that the box fitted with microphones or a ccd camera, so a child detained in the box when it is locked appears to need to request access to an outside bathroom from the person(s) monitoring the box.

Who does the monitoring? What are the training standards for a person monitoring a 'therapeutic intervention' and how frequently is the interior monitored? What communications and first aid provisions are immediately nearby to facilitate an emergency resulting from self-harm?

There appears to be no seating in the box other than the floor which seems to be the same material as the rest of the room. It may or may not be padded and carpeted--I would have some expectation for that in a cell for children who as a danger to themselves may engage in head-banging.

USDA/APHIS standards for caging say that dimensions must accommodate natural postures. It's unclear whether the floor dimensions are large enough to allow a student lay flat.

The pictures don't provide much information to judge if air-handling is adequate within the box. The small rectangle visible low on the wall may be for HVAC but it isn't clear (it could be a speaker cover) as the isolation box seems to stand free from the walls around it.

The interior of the box seems to have lighting, whether or not the children are enclosed in a darkened cell during 'therapy' isn't clear.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Nov 30, 2012, 11:49 AM

7. my son would probably like that booth

They don't have one in my son's school. He gets overwhelmed by all the chaos of school. In elementary school he was in a very small special education class with only a few other kids. When things got overwhelming in the overcrowded, loud, and confusing, general education classes he was integrated into he was allowed to go to the special education classroom and sit and be quiet for a while. He would usually sit in a bean bag chair and read a book. Luckily he has continued the reading as a way of tuning out the chaos. When he gets overwhelmed now he doesn't always need to leave the general education class. He just takes out a book and tunes out the chaos. Sometimes he does get up and go take a walk down the hall for a couple of minutes to get away from the noise. He likes the library and the basketball court. He also uses those areas to decompress. When he was younger and he would get frustrated at home he would wrap a blanket around his head as a way of blocking out the environment. Autistic people get sensory overload and sometimes need a way of decreasing the amount of information their senses are taking in. If there are teachers abusing the use of the box I think they should be reprimanded but I don't think they should have to stop using the box especially if the parents say it is helping their kid.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread