Think of isolation rooms and physical restraints, and the mind goes not to schools but to prison cells for violent criminals or to efforts to prevent mentally unstable patients from hurting themselves or others.
But last year, a joint investigation by the Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio, a collaboration of Ohio public radio stations and NPR, exposed the underside of a disciplinary practice commonly used in Ohio schools to control behavior in classrooms. The investigation found some schools regularly isolated students who misbehaved, confining them to closet-like spaces or unused rooms, with few policies regulating the time, conditions or reasons for imposing seclusion. Special-needs students with emotional or behavior disorders were most likely to be subjected to seclusion.
No less disturbing, the State Board of Education did not have a policy on seclusion room and restraints. And the Ohio Department of Education did not supervise their use or even ask which schools used them. The state school board last week adopted a long-awaited policy that would apply to schools statewide. Among other things, it limits the practice, requiring schools to make their policies on it public, notify parents when it is used and track and report how often and why it is used. There’s nothing quite like exposure to spur action.