On January 15, 2013, the Ohio State Board of Education adopted policies related to tracking the use of seclusion rooms and restraints in Ohio schools. According to StateImpact.npr.org the policies are non-binding.
In reading the 11 page policy available HERE, it appears that the policy is actually a set of guidelines for Ohio school districts, with no description of any consequences for non-compliance.
Most often, the consequences for non-compliance for similar situations are lawsuits, many resulting in verdicts and settlements paid from funds much better used for education.
An Ohio investigation last year found that seclusion rooms were being used often as a punishment for students who misbehaved. There was also no requirement to notify parents of students who were secluded or restrained.
Under the new policy, seclusion rooms and/or restraints are to be used only when a student poses a threat to the safety of him/herself or others.
Further, the policy states that the schools must keep records of each instance when restraint or seclusion was implemented and why. Those records must be shared with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) upon request and parents of the student involved in each incident. The parent(s) must be notified immediately and receive a copy of a written report about the event within 24 hours. The report is only made available to the parents and by request to the ODE. The report will never be made public.
While that sounds like a good plan to protect the students’ privacy, it creates an environment of secrecy for each school district where conceivably no one could know of misuse or over use of restraints and/or seclusion rooms.
Even with implementation of these new policies which take effect next school year, there is no reporting requirement for Ohio school districts other than when the data is requested by the ODE.
As a founding partner in a law firm regularly defending California school districts in lawsuits, I believe preventing lawsuits is much more cost effective than defending them. While this “policy” is a step in the right direction, there needs to be more accountability, a well-defined reporting structure and consequences in this important issue.
If you are a California school administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, or school employment law, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district issue.