Schools have been implicated in countless cases of bizarre and inhumane disciplinary measures for decades, but I had no idea that something called a “seclusion room” was common. I’ve seen that there’s other names for the room including planning rooms, calming rooms, respite processing rooms, safe rooms and cloud rooms, to name a few (adventures in semantics!). No one in the school system seems to want to call it by its not-so-cuddly name: solitary confinement. This issue is something I have never discussed with fellow parents, so I wanted to read some more about it after I discovered that my old elementary school came under fire this past spring for accusations of misusing the seclusion room.
As it turns out, there are several states that are experiencing troubles with this system. Over twenty states have regulations outlining “proper use” of seclusion rooms in schools, so at least I know that many states seem to think that these rooms are appropriate. I cannot find the first documented case of seclusion rooms broadening from mental health institutions to the school, but apparently Wisconsin has been discussing it for over 20 years so it’s not a very new idea. It kind of blends right in with lobotomies and electroshock treatments.
Undoubtedly schools don’t want to be called barbaric or prehistoric (even if they are) so this is where the matter gets blurred: many schools claim the room’s purpose is only for autistic or special needs students who are an imminent threat of harming themselves or others. Those who defend seclusion rooms argue that it’s a matter of safety and there are events in which a child must be restrained as to not harm anyone. However, it’s been documented in my home state of Vermont as well as in Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin that schools have been accused of using it as a form of discipline rather than a “last resort”. Autism and disability advocates and specialists decry this treatment. If it’s supposed to be for emergencies only, why does it happen so much? The term danger tends to meld with terms like out of control, aggressive, and potential threat. If you want to get down to it, almost every student- not just autistic or those with disabilities- has the ability to become one of the above, with varying breaking points.
This issue is very simple- children are being caged like animals- but just like any other government agency, legislation and bureaucracy are smothering discussion the underlying problem. Parents: would you want your child to be placed in a room, even if it was painted bright and decorated with bean bag chairs? Do you think you might want the chance to step in and figure out what is going on with your child, rather than allow the school system to use a treatment like this?