Ohio board OKs student restraint, seclusion policy

The Ohio Board of Education has approved the state's first policy on how educators seclude and physically restrain students in schools, a measure meant to ensure those tactics aren't used for a child's punishment or for the convenience of frustrated staff.
Associated Press
Jan 16, 2013

 

The rules in effect beginning next school year allow for students to be physically restrained or put in seclusion rooms only if they're a danger to themselves or others, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

The board voted 12-4 Tuesday in favor of the policy. Previously, the Ohio Department of Education hasn't overseen how seclusion rooms were used.

Parents and advocates of children with special needs or disabilities — the students who are most often restrained and secluded — argued the policy could help protect youngsters. But the plan had drawn criticism from schools that feared being overburdened with training, testing and paperwork.

State board members acknowledged the policy is imperfect but called it a step to protect children from abuse.

"This is huge for our state," board President Debe Terhar said.

The policy governs public schools, and the board will review whether the rules also should be applied to charter schools, as some hope, board member C. Todd Jones said.

Under the policy, schools will have to notify parents in writing within 24 hours of an incident. The requirement comes after some parents complained schools hadn't informed them when their children were put in seclusion rooms, the newspaper said.

An earlier investigation by The Columbus Dispatch, in collaboration with NPR and Ohio public-radio stations, found that the small, cell-like rooms were meant to be calming but were sometimes misused by teachers to punish children, even for minor infractions. The investigation also found the Department of Education didn't know which districts have such rooms.

According to the policy, reports kept about schools' use of restraint and seclusion will be "educational records" that might be kept from public view under federal law to protect student privacy. In a last-minute change, the board eliminated wording that would have indicated the records were private and couldn't be released even in redacted form.