Ohio Board Of Education Holds Seclusion Room Hearings - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

Ohio Board Of Education Holds Seclusion Room Hearings

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The State Board of Education held hearings regarding Ohio's new policy and rules for the use of seclusion rooms in public schools on Tuesday.

The hearings are held to make sure that districts are following the seclusion room policies and to consider possible changes to the rules.

NBC4 education reporter Steve Wainfor spoke with a woman who was repeatedly put into a seclusion room for weeks, and now she is telling the board that those rooms need to be closed.

Helena was diagnosed with Autism, ADHD and she is bi-polar. It wasn't until she moved to a new school district that things started to go bad. She was in and out of seclusion rooms during high school, and it had a dramatic impact on her life.  

"Death row inmates are treated better than students with disabilities in Ohio schools. Because they cannot be restrained without a doctor saying so. Teachers are not doctors," said Helena.

For 35 consecutive school days, Helena was put in a storage closet used as a seclusion room.  She came to the state Board of Education hearings Tuesday to give a voice to those who have been treated the same way.

Helena pleaded for the board to stop the use of seclusion rooms all together.

"I believe that seclusion should be banned completely. Because no one benefits. No one. I  mean, you sit in there and you will drive yourself crazy," Helena stated.

Advocates, parents and attorneys spoke Tuesday, all with same concern that more needs to be done.

"There has to be some enforcement mechanism included in these rules to make sure that there is some down side for the districts that don't comply," said attorney Aimee Gilman.

Susan Tobin with the advocacy group Disability Rights Ohio said the board is moving in the right direction, but the group feels that more training is needed.

"We had filed a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education about Columbus City Schools, and even though there were almost 2,000 incidents occurring in one year, the department found no violation. And we think that's a problem. I think the Ohio Department of Education staff needs training as well," said Tobin.

Many also voiced concerns that the seclusion and restraint policy does not cover community or charter schools. The board only has authority over public schools.

Acting Superintendent Michael Sawyers said that could change as the board looks at all the suggestions made Tuesday.

"And actually look at some of the suggestions that were specifically made and determine if they are right fit and if the time is right now to incorporate those into the possible rules. I think there was some good ideas presented today that are actually worth a look," said Sawyers.

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