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Horror Stories Prompt Virginia to Regulate Seclusion Rooms at Schools

The Short of It

The Virginia General Assembly has passed legislation to rein in the use of seclusion rooms as a way of controlling children at school, making it the 33rd state to govern the use of seclusion and restraint in schools.

The Lowdown

Carson Luke still has nightmares about an incident four years ago when he was in second grade and a school staff member locked him inside a seclusion room. Carson has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and when he had an aggressive outburst at a school for the disabled, he was taken to a "quiet room"—code for seclusion room— to calm down. As he was being locked in, the door broke his hand and his foot.

According to the Virginia Commission on Youth, while students with disabilities make up just 12 percent of all U.S. students, they represent 75 percent of those physically restrained and 58 percent of those secluded.

Carson is just one of about 60 cases that were reported to the Virginia Commission on Youth that have prompted the Virginia legislature to take action. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the school Carson went to used seclusion 559 times and restraint 177 times in 2011, the year Carson was injured.

The Upshot

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is expected to sign the bill into law, which will require the state Board of Education to develop statewide regulations governing the use of seclusion rooms.

Critics of this technique say seclusion is usually unnecessary to keep order in the classroom and is counterproductive because it exposes students to physical and emotional injury and, in some cases, long-term trauma.

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