Wednesday, February 25, 2009

MO: Lawmaker wants ban on seclusion rooms for children with disabilities

NOTE: Some good news out of MO today! Please join us in thanking Senator Scott Rupp for introducing this bill!

By Jessica Bock

School seclusion rooms for children with disabilities would be banned under a bill introduced Tuesday by state Sen. Scott Rupp.

He said he wanted to eliminate the rooms "until the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education can prove they serve a worthwhile purpose."

"If they serve a purpose, then we need to have some type of rules governing their use," said Rupp, R-Wentzville.

The measure also calls on the state education department to regulate the use of restraint and timeouts for students receiving special education services.

The proposal comes after two St. Charles County families spoke out last week against the rooms. Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services, a federally funded law firm, is investigating the parents' allegations of abuse and neglect against the Francis Howell School District. The district says that parents knew about the use of the rooms and that nothing improper was done.

In the St. Louis area, the Special School District, which provides special education services to students with disabilities who live in St. Louis County, uses what they call "secure observation rooms" for a child's safety if allowed in a plan approved by parents.

Some other area districts use similar methods.

Rupp's bill defines seclusion as a behavior management technique in which a student is confined in a locked box, locked closet or locked room designed solely to seclude a person and containing less than 50 square feet of space.

Most of the rooms used in the Special School District are 6 feet by 6 feet, or 36 square feet. In the Francis Howell School District, the room at Hollenbeck Middle School at the center of one of the complaints is 9 feet 2 inches by 5 feet 7 inches, or a little more than 45 square feet.

Last week, Francis Howell Superintendent Renée Schuster showed the room at Hollenbeck to reporters. She said the timeout rooms were safe and were used only as a last resort as part of a student's individual education plan when behavior caused him or her to be a danger to themselves or others. She echoed that Tuesday in a written statement in response to the bill. "The district believes that it is important to keep all kids safe and will continue to do what is best for each individual child," she said. 636-255-7208

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