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January 2011



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September 29, 4:51 PM

Elizabeth Brown

Seclusion is an abuse of power. The threat and the use of time out rooms with special needs kids is an ineffective method that puts the child at risk for psychological and physical harm. A report on Seclusions and Restraints in May of 2009, released by the Federal Government Accountability Office (GAO),  found that with more special needs kids being identified and mainstreamed, an increase of abuses and allegations from parents, advocates, and attorneys have been reported. Thousands of disturbing incidents were examined by GAO. Although reporting is required in a number of states, comprehensive organization of particular incidents were difficult to access.

Families Against Restraint and Seclusion includes Connecticut on the list of schools that allegedly overused or unnecessarily used seclusions and restraints. Two of the schools out of the eight are Chamberlain Elementary in New Britain (unreasonable force, unlawful restraints, physical and emotional abuse) and River Street School in Hartford (multiple restraints of a 6-year old with autism).

More recently, as reported in the Hartford Courant,  Claudina Cruz, a West Hartford mother, filed a lawsuit against the West Hartford Board of Education due to an injury her child sustained in 2007 while enrolled at Braeburn Elementary School. Ms. Cruz’s son was described as a special needs child with ADHD. The child was being disciplined by a paraprofessional and was pushed into what was referred to as a “closet” or time out room reserved for the special needs kids attending the school. His foot was caught underneath the door, and his toe was damaged. Aside from the permanent physical scars, the emotional scars are more insidious. (see video below)

Braeburn Elementary is a small K-5 school situated in an affluent, white collar neighborhood. 37 of these kids are special needs and sent from their respective neighborhood schools. Braeburn offers kids a strong behavioral modification program in the Learning Center.  Although the program is an inclusive program, meaning the kids spend most of their day mainstreamed (97% spend over 79% of time with disabled kids), the time out room is used to keep challenging behaviors under control. Arguing with staff, an outburst, or kicking a chair or a desk can mean a trip to the time out room. The door is not locked, but only when a student is compliant and quiet, and he/she is ready to emerge, will the supervisor or teacher grant permission. There are no pictures, books, windows or soothing music.

The time out room at Braeburn Elementary School is similar to seclusion methods used in private and public school settings across the state and nationwide. (see video below)

Seclusion as defined by the Connecticut General Statutes 46a-150  is “The confinement of a person in a room, whether alone or with supervision by provider or assistant, in a manner that prevents person from leaving that room.” Seclusion of a child with special needs (or one that is being evaluated but is not identified yet) should only be used in an emergency situation defined as a child who is putting himself or others in imminent danger. If it’s in the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) the frequency, the duration, and the space need to be included.

The child should not be in seclusion longer than an hour (unless permission has been granted for an extension from Principal or designee). Parents should be encouraged to visit the school and view the space. Parents are entitled to information regarding incident, even on the day it happens. Parents have the right to prohibit the seclusion of their child and insist that the child always be within eyesight of peers, and more than one staff member to ensure accountability.

Paradoxically, seclusion can be prohibited if the child suffers from psychological issues that could be aggravated by being secluded.

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) a nonprofit agency of parents, advocates and attorneys, have asked Congress to stop all uses of seclusions and aversive interventions in schools. A report released a report in March of 2009 Unsafe in the Schoolhouse: Abuse of Children with Disabilities examined 145 cases of children subjected to aversive interventions. Not surprising 68% were kids identified as Autism/Aspergers. 27% were kids with ADD/ADHD. The remaining categories were described as Emotionally Disturbed, Developmentally Delayed and other. Parents that had agreed to time out rooms as part of the IEP did not believe isolation would be used for issues such as work compliance and refusal to stay in seat, but for emergency situations only.

Read Article in Full(Includes Video – 10:04):  http://www.examiner.com/x-20605-Hartford-Public-Schools-Examiner~y2009m9d29-Seclusion-and-aversive-methods-are-harmful-to-special-needs-kids

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