A Wisconsin school district has decided to use federal stimulus dollars to construct “seclusion areas” in its schools. The decision is opposed by those working to end such practices for students with disabilities. The School Board voted in favor of using the funds for this purpose on December 14, the vote coming just after Congressman Miller introduced new federal legislation on December 9 – the Prevent Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act. Wisconsin DPI will review the plan.
The Wisconsin district’s assistant superintendent of elementary and middle school services said, “The seclusion areas would be part of existing special-education classrooms, providing an area where disruptive students can try to gain control. Segregation areas also would be created to give students time-out areas within special-education classrooms where they can settle down when they become agitated.”
The district explains these “seclusion” rooms would not have doors, but use walls and windows to isolate students from the rest of the class.
“…state Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay), who introduced legislation this year restricting the use of seclusion in schools, called the district’s plan an “unfortunate” use of stimulus dollars.
The money would be better spent training teachers (emphasis added) on methods of controlling special-education student behavior without removing kids from their peers, she said.
“If you build a room, I think there’s a message that, ‘That room is there, use it,'” Pasch said.”
In April this year, Disability Rights/Wisconsin released Out of Darkness…Into the Light: Report Released on Seclusion and Restraint of Wisconsin Children. Read more about the 2009 report on Seclusion and Restraint.
Concerns About “Unlocked” Seclusion
COPAA’s (Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates) Jessica Butler addresses the concern about placing children in areas and situations that are not locked, but may be blocked by furniture, where children cannot exit. “A child who uses a wheelchair but cannot operate it or a child with other motor disabilities may even be secluded in a room that is wide open. Children in this kind of space or room are at the same risk as children in locked seclusion. Schools could put children in these spaces for any reason, not report it to parents, and no one is required to watch or monitor the child to keep her safe.”
Ms. Butler recommends that Congress amend the newly proposed legislation to apply to “unlocked” seclusion areas. Read the analysis of the proposed legislation and what it means for children with disabilities in Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, by Jessica Butler. Find out how you can contact Congress with your concerns.
Find more info about the Wisconsin school’s plan in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/79775112.html