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Ohio Department of Education to Investigate Seclusion Rooms in Columbus Schools

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Monday, November 26, 2012 at 9:13 AM

The Ohio Department of Education will open an investigation the Columbus school district's use of seclusion rooms, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Seclusion rooms are enclosed spaces that are supposed to be used to calm or restrain children who become violent.

The investigation was prompted by a formal complaint filed against Ohio's largest school district by  Disability Rights Ohio. Disability Rights Ohio is a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities:

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The complaint, which also was submitted by the mother of a former Eastmoor Academy student who spent time in a seclusion room, will force the department to investigate whether the district failed to properly educate students who were secluded.

Federal law requires the department to investigate claims that special-needs students’ right to an appropriate public education were violated and issue findings within 60 days. If the department finds that Columbus school employees misused seclusion to the extent that children weren’t being taught as they should have been, it could force changes to district practices.

In September, Disability Rights Ohio published the results of an investigation that found the Columbus schools used seclusion rooms to punish children with special needs.The district criticized the report and said staff are trained to only use the rooms only when a student is a danger to him or herself or others.

In Ohio, no state law governs seclusion rooms, and the Ohio Department of Education has provided little guidance and virtually no oversight to schools.

The state Board of Education is expected to vote on a policy governing the use of seclusion and restraint in schools next month.

[Earlier this year, StateImpact Ohio teamed up with The Columbus Dispatch to investigate the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio schools. Read more here.]

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