Friday, October 17, 2008

PA: Local School has 9 "De-escalation Rooms"

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Locally, Colonial Academy, a school in Wind Gap for at-risk and special needs students from Monroe, Pike and Northampton counties, has nine small "de-escalation" rooms. The rooms are sound-proofed and lined with blue padding. Teachers enter the room with students to help them blow off steam.

A short version of this story that was posted on www.poconorecord. com Thursday provoked strong reactions on both sides, highlighting disagreements about how disabled students should be treated in mainstream school settings.

"The room is there for good reason," wrote "snsb," who said he or she was a parent of a nonviolent child in an emotional support, or ES, program.

"A lot of the ES children are violent to other people or themselves. They are only put in this room when a severe episode is occurring to protect themselves and others ... if your child was injured by an ES student you'd be the first to scream and yell and ask why the child was left in the classroom to begin with."

Many wondered whether the room violated the law or posed a threat to safety.

"Guess all the people across the USA against them must be wrong," wrote "cellerdoor. "

"Statistics that show the damage this type of discipline causes these children. Nightmares, fear, panic, embarrassment, humiliation, powerless, hopeless, lack of trust towards officials, and I could go on & on. But hey, as long as your kid isn't being disturbed, then hey. Who cares, right?"

Laurie Hilbert, a local mother of two children with Asperger's, which is a form of autism, criticized what she saw as the excessive use of Stroudsburg' s room in the Intermediate Elementary school.

Hilbert said that her daughter had been sent to Stroudsburg' s time-out room so often that she started referring to the room as "her office."

Her son, whose disorder manifests itself, partly, in difficulty adjusting to changes in environment, spent frequent and long stretches there, she said.

The visits took place as often as four times a week and for as long as 45 minutes, Hilbert said, adding that she had not encountered serious behavioral problems with her children at home. She also said that the room was not mentioned in her children's Individualized Education Plans, the contract that sets out how to teach children with special needs.

"They've way overused that room," Hilbert said. "When kids are spending a lot of time in that room, it becomes a problem.

"Parents have the right to know it exists."

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