An advocacy group for the disabled called Monday for statewide guidelines on the use of time-out or seclusion rooms in special education and used a Lawrence school as an example of the practice.
"Unfortunately, seclusion and restraint occurs in Kansas schools every day," said Rocky Nichols, executive director of Kansas Advocacy & Protective Services. "KAPS' position is that if you treat students like animals that they will behave like animals."
Bruce Passman, executive director of student services for Lawrence schools, defended the use of a time-out room at Quail Run School, pictures of which were distributed to members of the Legislative Educational Planning Committee.
Passman, who has worked in special education for more than 30 years, said isolating and placing in seclusion a special-education student sometimes was necessary to keep both the student and others safe.
He said Quail Run's time-out room was used only in specific instances, and only if the child's parents had agreed that it could be used.
The wooden, closetlike seclusion room is in the special-education classroom in a portable building behind Quail Run, 1130 Inverness Drive.
"It may not be the most pretty time-out room you might see," Passman said, but he lauded the special-education instruction at Quail Run as part of a program that teaches seven or eight autistic students.
Committee members are considering whether to recommend any changes on seclusion rooms to the 2005 Legislature, which starts meeting in January.
Nichols said he didn't want to pick on the Lawrence school district, noting that some schools had worse seclusion rooms. Instead, he said his concern was the lack of statewide guidelines for special-education instructors on when to place students in such rooms.
"Oddly enough, seclusion and restraint is more closely monitored and regulated in our state psychiatric institutions than in Kansas schools," he said.
Nichols said the Legislature should enlist the help of Kansas University experts on students with disabilities about the use of "positive behavior supports" instead of using a time-out room.
But Cynthia Lutz Kelly, an attorney representing the Kansas Association of School Boards, spoke against increased regulations, saying they could result in costly litigation and more adversarial proceedings.
Safeguards already are in place to protect students, she said.
"The present system works well for the vast majority of children and their families," she said.