Janesville, WI: De-escalation policies needed to avoid use of seclusion rooms

Dec 10, 2017, Janesville (WI) Gazette: Our Views: Seclusion a tool to be used sparingly Every school district should fear the kind of complaint posted onto Facebook last week by a Milton mother regarding a principal's use of seclusion to discipline a first-grader. Regardless of whether the Milton West Elementary principal was justified in placing the first-grader in a former storage closet, the incident made a public-relations mess. It doesn't help that the district is limited to what it can say about the incident, reportedly over the first-grader's refusal to relinquish a handful of Play-Doh. … Controversy over school districts' use of seclusion—defined by the state as “involuntary confinement”—isn't new and isn't unique to Milton. Reports of some districts relying too heavily on seclusion and in some cases applying it disproportionately to minorities prompted the Legislature in 2011 to create rules for how schools practice seclusion and restraint. State law also requires districts to report annually to school boards the number of incidents and students involved. … It's unfortunate schools need seclusion rooms, but they have few other options for addressing extreme behavior, except to call the police, which they sometimes do. The unacceptable alternative is to allow the most dangerous, disruptive behavior to take over classrooms, infringing on the rights of other students who want to learn. The best way to avoid the kind of ordeal afflicting Milton is for school districts to have policies for de-escalating situations before they require restraint or seclusion. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially when some students don't respond to incentives and disincentives. These students often have unstable home lives or medical conditions, such as attention deficit disorder, that make them prone to lashing out and fighting with authority.