Archive for Sunday, November 15, 2009

School seclusion practices reviewed

November 15, 2009


— Nearly 300 students with disabilities were secluded in the final quarter of the last school year, according to a new report by the Kansas Department of Education.

One child was placed in a seclusion room 15 times in one day, according to the report, which covered the 2008-2009 school year.

Some State Board of Education members said they aren’t happy that children are being isolated, and some question whether the report accurately reflects the extent to which seclusion is used.

“Is there a way of eliminating this as an option?” asked Education Board Member David Dennis, R-Wichita.

The state doesn’t regulate the practice of secluding students, leaving it instead to local school districts.

Several years ago, parents of students with disabilities complained to the Education Board and Legislature that their children were improperly restrained at school.

They asked state officials to put in place regulations and safeguards regarding seclusion and restraints for children with disabilities.

That resulted in the Education Board in 2007 adopting guidelines for seclusion and restraint rooms and requiring that school districts report to the state education agency how many students with disabilities are placed in seclusion, how many times, and for how long.

The guidelines recommend that seclusion be used only as a “behavior intervention strategy,” and not for discipline, punishment or staff convenience. And seclusion for a child with a disability is only supposed to be used if the action is specified in the required individualized education program for the student, and it is necessary to avoid imminent risk of harm to the student or others.

There are also guidelines saying that seclusion rooms must have a ceiling of comparable height to other rooms in the building and comparable heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting.

In the Lawrence school district, 10 of the 21 school buildings have “time-out” rooms, according to Kevin Harrell, special education director. He said seclusion is used only if the parent or guardian agrees to allow it within the student’s individualized education program. The parent or guardian is notified when it is used, Harrell said. He said 12 students were secluded during the last quarter of last year.

“Our goal is not to use it (seclusion),” he said. When it is used, the student is secluded for usually 10 minutes to 20 minutes, Harrell said. And an adult is always nearby to observe the student, he said.

In the annual report given to the Education Board, Colleen Riley, director of special education services for the department of education, said that out of 1,389 public schools in Kansas, 196 reported having a designated seclusion room. That represents 14 percent of schools.

“If it’s not something that is needed in a majority of schools, why is it being used in a minority of schools? It really concerns me when we put a kid in seclusion,” Dennis said.

The report covers only those students with disabilities. From 203 students to 299 students were secluded in each of the quarterly reporting periods during the last school year, the report said. Most were secluded for 30 minutes or less at a time, the report said.

According to the report, there were several times when a student was placed in seclusion more than 10 times in one day, with the most being 15.

Riley said if there are 10 or more incidents per day, education department staff follow up with that school to make sure that seclusion is being used properly.

She said the decision to seclude a student is not taken lightly. “There are some cases where students to protect themselves may need seclusion,” she said.

Education Board member Sue Storm, D-Overland Park, said there are probably schools that seclude students but don’t have an official seclusion room, and therefore aren’t reflected in the report.

“I don’t know if we are getting as accurate a picture as we like to think we are,” she said.

But Riley said she believed the guidelines and reporting requirement were improving the situation.

The education agency noted that all public schools in Kansas are required to respond to the special education seclusion report each quarter regardless of whether any incidents of seclusion for students with disabilities occurred.


youngjayhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Perhaps some of these students do not belong in the public education environment but rather, alternative settings.

devobrun 8 years, 5 months ago

Youngjayhawk: two words, diversity and inclusion.

Both concepts come from the modern bastardization of science. Modern science has merged with feelings. "Studies" are cheery picking operations to support the feelings of the studiers.

Never mind the negative impact of inclusion. It is the right thing to do.

Never mind the confusion wrought by diversity. We are all loving and non-judgmental.

And peace and love will prevail. And we will no longer be taught to think, just to be accepting.

Damn hippies.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 5 months ago

Don't restrain and seclude children.

They could grow up and become a Marion.

Liberty275 8 years, 5 months ago

If you seclude children without disabilities, then isn't it discrimination to not seclude children with disabilities?

Larry 8 years, 5 months ago

Maybe public education is in trouble because educators are required to tip-toe through all of these ridiculous requirements/laws/statutes/mandates imposed by state and federal government. We do more for IEP kids now than at any other time in the history of education, yet education continues to struggle. We continue to fault teachers and raise training expectations, state assessment expectations, yada yada yada but we have yet to hold kids accountable. Granted, we need to put more pressure on teachers than simply providing students with the opportunity to learn but NCLB will fail terribly if we don't find a way to make kids accountable as well. Allow teachers to retain kids that aren't ready to advance to the next grade level; students who aren't in good standing (passing all coursework as well as behaviorally) cannot get a drivers permit; a regular drivers license is revoked unless student has HS diploma or GED by age of 19 just to name a few ideas.

Don't allow little Lisa to experience disappointment, heart break or challenges because the liberal college professors/psychologist believe it will harm her self-esteem. IMPORTANT to point out that these same college profs have spent little time in an actual elementary or secondary classroom, yet they are considered the expects who are training our teachers. WOULD LOVE TO SEE A COLLEGE PROF SPEND 2 months IN A public school classroom. I'm sure a few could do it but most wouldn't survive.

bluerain 8 years, 5 months ago

I wonder how much of an increase in monies allocated toward Special Education has occurred within the past decade and it's impact. Somebody should try to conduct a study on this issue.

I do support the guidelines that have been established regarding secluding students, otherwise, teacher may end up taking advantage of overusing a seclusion room as a form of intervention. I personally think the seclusion rooms are inhuman.

Christine Anderson 8 years, 5 months ago

I am all for guidelines covering seclusion practices. That being said, my son's school uses it only as a last resort, meaning they use it if my son is posing a physical danger to himself or others. And even then, they have used it for him about three times total in as many years! This tells me they truly do everything to avoid it. Devobrun and Larry, I assume that if you do have children, they are perfectly normal, right? No "IEP kids" in your house, right, Larry? Talk about stone-hearted, ignorant people. I used to be one of you. In '78, my school passed out a survey asking the rest of us how we felt about "mainstreaming" special ed students. I wrote something to the effect of I didn't want those "freaks" in my classroom. Oh-did I mention I was in junior high?? I held onto that attitude until I came to college at KU, and my eyes and my heart were opened in this area. Good thing too, as I gave birth to a very special little boy in '98 who turned out to be autistic. When I remember my former feelings toward special ed students, I am still ashamed of myself. Just had conferences with his teacher last week. Finally, we are seeing marked improvements in his behavior and academic progress. For the very first time, he has earned a coupon toward a book fair purchase for his improved behavior. I am proud of my "IEP child"! Oh Larry, you can take your disdain for these kids and do you- know- what with it. Use your imagination. I have a suspicion these kids have bigger hearts than at least two of you. I know my boy does-even though he will never have a driver's license.

promitida 8 years, 5 months ago

Ok, for those of you who read this and have no idea what terms like "seclusion" and "behavior intervention strategy" and "least restrictive environment" actually mean...let me clue you in: seclusion is a ridiculously outdated and ineffective behavior intervention strategy and the fact that one student was put in it FIFTEEN times a day - constitutes abuse. Even if your children are perfect and wonderful and you feel like them being around diverse students is "confusing," you should be very uncomfortable with the fact that your student is in a district that is allowing this to occur. I.D.E.A. anyone? (Federal law guaranteeing individuals with disabilities to an education) How would you feel if someone was saying that perhaps your child doesn't "belong in the public education environment but rather, alternative settings." What setting is that? Institutionalizing them? How ignorant can you be?

tomatogrower 8 years, 5 months ago

I used to work as a para in school, and I can tell you that students can get away with any kind of behavior whether or not they have a disability. Teacher's hands are tied, and they have to spend more time dealing with the behavior problems than teaching to those who want to learn. Many disabled children just need extra help, they aren't behavior problems. I alway thought that if a parent doesn't want their child removed when they become disruptive then, the parent should be called when it happens and be required to pick up their student. This goes for all students.

Larry 8 years, 5 months ago

misplacedcheesehead...I appreciate your comments and I should have reread my post before submitting. My post does come across as cold hearted which wasn't my intent. I am not an advocate for the old days of special education and self contained classrooms. With that said, I come from a family of educators with both parent and siblings in the education field. My understanding is that there are even restrictions on whether or not students can be in a room by themselves with the door shut (even if the student prefers it as an opportunity/time to cool off).To me, this is an example of people outside the realm of public education taking a concern to the extreme.

I think my biggest frustration comes from watching and listening to educators who truly love helping and working with kids but are so frustrated with the process, many are considering getting out of the classroom. There are many, many kids who have benefited from special education services including my eldest son when he was in elementary school. However, I still believe that we need to hold kids (in general) more accountable. With our current system, only schools are held accountable for the education of our children. What consequence do parents have who abuse or neglect their children? No one will ever convince me that children from divorced families are better off, except in very few cases. Regardless, our public schools are totally responsible for educating a child from both environments. I can't tell you the number of times that I've heard my sibling, an elementary teacher, state that there are kids that have much bigger issues to deal with at home, than getting an education at school. They are in survival mode and math/reading are simply not important. It doesn't seem logical to hold schools totally accountable for situations like this? That was the point of my post and I apologize for not doing a very good job of communicating this.

You sound like a wonderful parent and again, I appreciate your comments and wish you and your child the best.

billbodiggens 8 years, 5 months ago

Excessive seclusion only means that the child's placement is not an appropriate placement. But, many school boards do not want to deal with that as there is nothing cheaper than a closet in the principals office to handle special needs children. It is all about money and the desire or lack of desire to educate even the least of our state's children.

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