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New Hanover County, NC: Seclusion used >930 times in 2019; "forcibly isolate" SPED students

Jan 16, 2020, Wilmington (NC) Daily News: Most New Hanover K-8 schools use seclusion rooms, top U.S. education officials have concerns about their use Despite concerns of top American education officials on the use of seclusion methods on schoolchildren, more than half of all elementary and middle schools in the New Hanover County School system use so-called seclusion rooms to forcibly isolate students with disabilities or those showing aggressive behavior. More than 930 instances of seclusion were reported in the district in 2019, according to an NHCS spokesperson. Seclusion rooms are found in 18 of 25 elementary schools, three of eight middle schools, and one of the two alternative schools in the district A spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) could not clarify how many of the six public charter schools in the county used the rooms. Questions sent last week to Baker Mitchell, president of the Roger Bacon Academy, were unanswered. Legal in NC but discouraged by top education officials Seclusion in North Carolina is legal through the Greenblatt Act, passed in 2005, … The Department of Education defines seclusion as “involuntarily confining a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving” for the purpose of calming the student…. But the Greenblatt Act says the rooms can also be used as outlined in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), designed for children with disabilities who are legally entitled to special education in a public school. The rooms cannot be used “solely as a disciplinary consequence,” according to the law…. Nationwide underreporting of seclusion In 2009 the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) first began collecting data from schools and districts about the number of students subjected to seclusion. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog agency, released a report last June after analyzing the number of districts that “left fields pertaining to restraint and seclusion blank, or that reported all zeros for those fields,” raising questions about the “completeness and accuracy” of seclusion data. … Collected data also showed students with disabilities were secluded more frequently than those without disabilities. During the 2013-2014 school year, students with disabilities were subjected to seclusion rates “that far exceeded those of other students,” according to an OCR report published in 2016…. The first principle reads, “Every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and for the use of seclusion.” Other principles state that seclusion should be applied to all children, not just those with disabilities; any intervention should respect the child’s rights to be treated with dignity; seclusion should never be used as punishment or discipline; repeated uses of seclusion for a child, or multiple uses by a teacher, should trigger a review; every instance of seclusion should be carefully monitored; and parents should be informed of seclusion policies and notified “as soon as possible” after seclusion is used on their child.


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