*Baldwin Cty, AL: Parent sues district over SPED kid locked in isolation room

Jan 31, 2018, Mobile, AL, Lagniappe Weekly: Attorney says school locked student in 'isolation cell' A mother is taking legal action against the Baldwin County Public School System after her special-needs son was placed in a “timeout room” for hours that some legal experts say is in worse shape than many prison cells. Nadine Whatley claims her son, K.W., was locked in a roughly 8-foot-by-12-foot concrete room with no bathroom and no place to sit for “more than two hours” last fall after a teacher at Robertsdale Elementary separated him from his class. The room in question, which BCPS refers to as a “timeout room,” was specially designed into school construction. … Whatley is currently seeking a due process hearing through the Alabama State Department of Education to ensure her son receives the education he’s entitled to under federal and state law and that he is never placed in that room or another like it again. “He came home and told me they put him in a room for over two hours, and that they did indeed shut the door and lock it so that he couldn’t get back out,” she said. “I asked his teacher about it, and he said it’s common and that sometimes children get so upset they have to be separated from the rest of the class and that’s an easy place for them to go, where they can’t hurt themselves or anybody else.” Whatley acknowledged her son suffers from a learning disability and behavioral issues and has problems expressing himself with words, which are some of the reasons BCPS recommended he leave his home school in Fairhope to temporarily attend the alternative school. … Visible pencil markings are also visible on the walls, floor and the door of the room. There is also damage to the inside of the door that Cassady says he believes are “teeth” and “scratch” markings. A green button that reads “push to lock” can be seen just outside of the room as well. When state BOE voted to prohibit the use of seclusion in public schools in 2011, some key components of the new rule have to do with whether a child is monitored by a teacher and whether the room he or she is placed in is locked. While seclusion isn’t allowed, schools are permitted to put students in timeout. The state defines an appropriate timeout as one in a “non-locking setting” that’s “free of objects that unreasonably expose a student or others to harm.” It should last no more than 45 minutes and students should be monitored “in reasonable physical proximity” the entire time. Cassady said school officials previously told him students are placed voluntarily into those rooms when they want “quiet time,” and while the door isn’t locked permanently, the staff does hold down the green locking button in situations where is a child is a danger to themselves or others.