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Friday, November 4, 2016

Dismantle the boxes



Several schools in our district contain enclosures known variously as (depending on who you ask) “time-out rooms,” “seclusion enclosures,” “isolation boxes,” or “solitary confinement cells.” The nature of these enclosures varies from school to school, but some of them are made of unfinished plywood, are about six feet by six feet, and are built right into the larger classroom. Some of them appear to be poorly lit to the point of being outright dark inside. The photos above show enclosures at Grant Wood Elementary School.

A child can be confined in such an enclosure as part of the school’s behavior management practices. When the enclosure is built right into the larger classroom, children in the class watch as a child in put into the enclosure. The child in the enclosure can hear the class activity going on outside, and the other kids in the classroom can hear a child’s cries coming from inside the enclosure.

There are state-enacted rules regulating when and how the enclosures can be used, though there have been questions about whether our district has complied with the rules. The Gazette had an in-depth set of articles about the enclosures in September; you can read them here, here, and here. The Daily Iowan reports on the issue today here.

I know there are difficult situations when a child may pose a risk of harm to self or others and that the district needs to have a way of dealing with those situations. There is a lot to discuss about how best to handle those situations. But it doesn’t take an extended inquiry to see that the district can do better by its students than these plywood boxes. The district needs to discontinue using them and dismantle them, in favor of creating more humane spaces and practices for dealing with difficult behavior.

55 comments:

disgusted said...

This is appalling! I am so naive that I imagined when I heard about the time-out "boxes" that the kids were taken to a peaceful room off the guidance or principal's office that was maybe like a nurse's office with a cot to rest on. I am an idiot to think that, clearly! Why would our school district do anything kind or soothing to a child who is turmoil and acting out? I not only would be 100% opposed to having my child be put in one, but 100% opposed to having my child ever see another child be put in one!! I don't even want my children to know this exists in our schools. What kind of rotten, idiot, lazy, heartless teachers and administrators dreamed this up?? This did NOT exist a number of years ago. Someone introduced it. I am so incredibly angry. THIS is how we treat children who are struggling?! I understand it can be so, so nightmarishly hard to deal with kids who are acting out. I get that. but THIS?!? No excuse. None. We are better and smarter than resorting to this punitive treatment. It is a fucking MINI-JAIL!!! People should be fired over this crap. It is abusive. Someone should send these pictures to the New York Times or CNN. Our district deserves to be humiliated and get a bad reputation for this. On top of being racist towards black children in special ed according to the Federal Dept. of Education, what garbage we are. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

"Outrageous" doesn't do it justice. This is a modern American school district, not a 19th-century asylum. Heads need to roll, instead of being rewarded with a raise.

Anonymous said...

Can you please tell me which schools in the school district have these?

Anonymous said...

These boxes look like something out of a horror movie. I am horrified that we put children in them. And then we expect their behavior to improve? Thank you for posting actual images of the boxes. People need to see this.

Anonymous said...

Yes, please post a complete list of schools in our district that have these.

Anonymous said...

Just do a Google search for something like "parent confined child" to see story after story of parents being arrested for putting their child in something like this.

All of our schools have these, but most districts don't have them.

Anonymous said...

Use is just wrong. Are these used more with low SES kids or African Americans or boys? Did we have these before Murley came or did their use grow after him? Are they ever used with high SES kids. Thank you Chris.

Chris said...

Anonymouses 9:37 and 10:57: I have asked for that information. According to the information the district provided to State Rep. Mary Mascher in April (viewable here), there are 18 seclusion rooms in the district: 13 in elementary schools, 2 in junior highs, and 3 at the high schools. I don’t know how many of those rooms resemble the “rooms” in the photos. I hope to start taking a look at them myself.

Karen Nichols said...

I can understand the need for a trauma-informed soft space where a child can go to calm his/her emotions. The box in this photo is not that. My child is terrified of the dark. This would scar him for life. Another thing: The law requires that parents be notified of these being in the building and how they are used There is one in my child's school, but I know that in our 5 years there, no staff has notified us of its existence.
Besides the use of these things being horrible for children, they are a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Anonymous said...

Check out the Discuss site; the conversation on this situation is sadly going as expected. It's horrible; Certain people seem to care more about the bond (no, City High) than the fate of young children in this district.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people are going to make a lot of money if the bond goes through. That gives them plenty of $$$ reasons to support it and weak board members that have nothing to do withe best interests of kids.

Anonymous said...

The Discuss FB page is private and run by Julie Eisele who in the past has gone by the user name Eastsideparent. That page raises a lot of concerns. I've seen some of Julie's posts (as Eastsideparent) in other blogs and they were dismissive of poor kids. Her disregard for poor kids and those not part of her clique is disheartening, I felt the same way reading some of her posts as I felt reading this blog story. Just terrible to see a supposedly educationally advanced area like the ICCSD with this stuff going on. Is it greed? fear? racism? new wave eugenicists? WTH?

Reader said...

There is a another FB page called News, Blogs and Discussion of the ICCSD
I find a lot of great articles there.
https://www.facebook.com/News-Blogs-and-Discussion-of-the-ICCSD-1403530923254480/

Anonymous said...

My child was a special education student with behavioral challenges in the ICSD from 2009-2013 and, even though I knew nothing of these boxes at the time, special ed in this district was not a good experience for our family. My concerns were routinely dismissed and given the run around, IEP meetings were deliberately scheduled at awkward times so that they would never run longer than 30 minutes regardless of whether my questions or concerns had been addressed, funds were taken due to his IEP but never applied to help or benefit him directly, the principal had no idea what his IEP even said (it was obvious at meetings that she hadn't even looked at it), etc. These boxes are so awful and totally inexcusable. I can't prove my son was ever placed in one, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had been since I routinely got notes home about his challenging behaviors (something we struggled with at home, too, but with him only and none of our other children). Children with special needs and/or challenging behaviors demand a lot of time and attention, but this is not the way. What is the saying, "Those who need love the most will usually not ask for it in loving ways." Thank goodness we have moved from Iowa City.

Anonymous said...

It's telling that the usual Discuss site apologists are nowhere to be found. It's just Eisele, who is trying to turn this travesty into some kind of indictment of a board member for actually listening to parent concerns. They aren't touching this with a 10 ft pole; she evidently can't help herself.

Anonymous said...

The only reason any school should have a safe room is for when students are harming themselves or others. The ones I have seen in other districts look nothing like these horrible boxes. My good friend is a special education teacher in a high risk behavior classroom in another city and said that having a calm room is essential for safety for everyone - students and teachers alike - but her model is more open, has light colored padding, has pillows, soft lighting and music. The moment a student has stopped self harm, they are allowed to come out. Iowa state law is very problematic - it allows for restraint and seclusion for "disruptions" and not just violence. Children with autism, tourette's, ADHD and other conditions would be at higher risk. Many children have been placed in seclusion rooms for extended periods of time simply for being disruptive. That term is just too vague. Teachers are also not required to let a student out until they feel that they are calm - not just once their crisis has passed. It breaks my heart to read how students reacted once placed in a seclusion room - crying to be let out, jumping to see out of the window (that poor kid must have been very young), yelling to be let out...

We need stricter guidelines for restraint and seclusion, should have it ONLY for self harm or harm of other children, release a child once risk of self harm has passed, and better, more welcoming spaces for children to decompress and not feel like they are in solitary confinement. I also think board members need to ask to disaggregate the data on who is being placed in these rooms, if all children are being held to the same disciplinary standards and if there are populations of children who are being restrained more frequently. I still have yet to hear from administration regarding why the state law mandated notification of restraint and seclusion practices are not being adequately explained or distributed to parents annually.

Anonymous said...

This is a great analysis of the difference between state restraint and seclusion laws. I think the board should take a look and see how our state can improve and re-write policy for our district - http://www.autcom.org/pdf/HowSafeSchoolhouse.pdf

Anonymous said...

Good rational post. ICCSD is supposed to be a data driven district. These boxes are not best practice.

Anonymous said...

I have worked in the school district in these classrooms. Parents are notified when their child has an IEP about these rooms and the rules. Parents give the ok and are notified when their child enters the room. The door is only kept shut when they have self harmed or threatening to harm others. The door is left open when the student has calmed down. Students have been escorted to these room for behaviors such as strangling teachers and stabbing teachers in the neck with objects. As well as harming other students. These rooms are found in almost every district in the state. Even districts with little diversity. Am I saying I agree with these rooms, no, but what do you do with a student when they are harming those around them? You can't sit them in the principals office or counselors office because they would be in there all day without the attempt of core instruction. For some students they would be spending everyday without the attempt of getting core instruction. In the special education rooms, the teachers have built a relationship with the student and can attempt to get them back on track.

Anonymous said...

What safeguards are in place to ensure they are not misused? Do all parents understand they can say no to this? Why did the Gazette report a student was put in for pouting and one for getting out of line?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:10 - I am curious to hear from you, having had direct experience with placing children in restraint and seclusion, what would have been some tools that you wish you had? How clearly were policies and procedures communicated? Were there any rules about allowing pillows, bean bag chairs or soft lighting in these? What strikes me is the contrast between rooms in the district. Some are much more calming and others (like the ones featured here) are downright frightening. Are these really best practices? Parents are reassured and told that these are used only as a last resort when PBIS techniques and other alternatives fail to de-escalate but the incident reports obtained by the Gazette paint a different picture. I think it would only be a positive thing for the district to really take a hard look at our policies and safeguards and re-examine what our standards regarding the seclusion rooms are. If other districts do not use these, then what protocols DO they use? Could we not at least look into them? I view our quality of education based on how the most vulnerable populations are treated in our district. Even if other rooms are nicer, other staff are competent and compassionate, and other children really have the best supports in place - the boxes featured in Chris's article are also here, they are not reflective of best practices, they are dark and they are currently used for someone's child. We need to do better.

Amy said...

WTF!

This is absolutely insane -- what the hell is going on in this place? And who are the teachers putting kids into these boxes?

I would like to see ALL the rules governing the use of these monstrosities. ALL. Please advise as to where they can be found.

Steve Murley! Again, you can regard this as a critical remark! What do you have to say about this, man? Because I would very, very much like to hear it.

Off to share with media.

amy said...

Oh hey, wait, arent the Civil Rights people coming to visit soon? I think they need some of these photos. Who are the reps they're sending, exactly?

Anonymous said...

Here is Iowa law regarding restraint and seclusion - https://www.educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/Chapter%20103,%20Administrative%20Rules%20on%20Seclusion%20and%20Restraint.pdf

Sorry, you're probably going to have to copy and paste that. The state leaves it up to individual boards to write their own policies regarding the use of restraints and ours absolutely has the authority to reform current practices.

Anonymous said...

The kids placed in these are dangerously out of control and it is the last option. It is safest physically for the student to not be restrained or carried but allowed to blow out the storm and return to a state of mind that can reasoned with if you think they are isolated for blurting out or not sitting still your wrong.

Anonymous said...

So when your child is hit by a flying chair thrown by a student or stuck with a pencil you will be fine with that because you would rather risk your child than have a student removed to an area that keeps him/her and the other students from being harmed.

Anonymous said...

9:06 the Gazette reported a child being put in them for pouting and another for getting out of line. These boxes may scare ALL children or they may think less of kids who they are used on. There is no way to know whether documentation is always done or truthful. ICCSD's administration didn't want pictures of the boxes. There are some reports they smell.

Anonymous said...

Here is ICCSD policy.

http://www.iowacityschools.org/dynimg/_WGAAA_/docid/0x6C8707B966C1C284/1/Chapter%2B103%2B-%2BIowa%2BCity%2BCommunity%2BSchool%2BDistrict%2BGuidance.pdf

It mirrors state policy and makes room for restraint and seclusion as being permitted for "disruptive behavior". That term is pretty vague and is reflected in the incident reports obtained in the Gazette. One person's definition of disruption differs from another.

There is no policy saying that a parent should be shown where a student is taken for a "time out". Many parents use time outs at home and may envision their child being placed in a corner or something with pillows and blankets.

The requirements for a box are provided but make no mention of how dark the interior must me. It says adequate lighting, but I just don't see that in these pictures. It also says that rooms must be free from objects, so there is no bean bag chairs, pillows, or room for anything comforting in there. Other rooms I've seen have white padding, lower windows, bean bag chairs, and are much more welcoming.

The fifty minute rule is problematic - it doesn't specify what a child's behavior has to be before allowing a child to leave. It just says no more than 50 minutes. If these boxes were simply approved for harm to self or others, what behavior is acceptable upon release would be much more concrete and less subjective.

Anonymous said...

Does North Central Junior High have an isolation box and will any be built at Liberty? They don't look like rooms. Will the district fix any up before you see them?

Brandi Miller said...

Regardless of how and/ or why these medieval things are used, they should NOT be in schools. There are other, MORE EFFECTIVE ways to deal with a child who is being disruptive to the class. Simply remove them from the classroom and have them sit on a bench in the principles office. This is bull!

Amy said...

I'm really stunned by the depth of the ignorance on display, from district workers as well as others, about how to manage meltdowns and discipline children. I'm particularly concerned about the idea that it makes any sense whatsoever to put a self-harming child in a cell at the back of the classroom and shut the door.

If you saw people doing this to their kids in their homes, pushing them into a closet and making sure they stayed in there, you'd consider calling the police -- or you'd actually make the call. In no way would you regard this as a reasonable or humane way of disciplining or helping a child. Holy crap.

Who is teaching our teachers about discipline and handling children who've lost it? Where's *that* curriculum?

Tamara said...

They told me to have a quiet secluded place in my class for the children who were emotionally melting. I built a corner called the bear cave. There are posters what to do when angry/sad the kidscreated. Stuffed animals to read to. A "break box" with stress balls..putty ..etc to calm kids. The outside has a huge bear. I think it's the same concept but not punitive.. I have them go there if they feel like a grouchy or sad bear. And bracelets are included in the box that as re red for leave me alone right now. 3 sides are covered but the front is open so you can see the child. It's worked to calm those out of control kids.

DeeAnn Pochedly said...

This is the result of the dismantling & defunding of public education. Budgets have been cut so far to the bone that schools don't have the personnel or resources to humanely & properly deal with these children. Yes, they may be violent & a danger to themselves & others but if parents did this, they would be guilty of child abuse. Look at what our society has done to these children. So tragic.

Anonymous said...

DeeAnn there are plenty of schools and districts in this state that are doing a lot better than the ICCSD with the same funding. The ICCSD has a widening achievement gap, it is going to become a DINA-10, the leadership (majority board and superintendent) is in favor of putting poor minorities on buses and redistricting them for bogus reasons and there is a retaliatory culture. The same dismissive attitude towards poor, minority kids pops up over and over again in this district. This is a leadership issue and those putting policy in place are failing.

Anonymous said...

Where can I find the Discuss FB page mentioned above? I have had some encounters with Julie Eisele at various meetings and they were not pleasant to say the least. I would be interested to read some of the dialogue and opinions on her site. Can someone provide a link?

Karen W said...

Anonymous 10:38 AM--just search for Discuss Iowa City Community Schools Part II on Facebook. You will have to ask to join the group and be added as a member to see any of the posts.

Anonymous said...

If you have had negative encounters or have ever disagreed with Julie Eisle--good luck getting your request approved to join the group!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:06AM, that is an outright lie with a great deal of documentation in direct dispute with your outright lie.

Anonymous said...

In taking a closer look at School District's statement regarding seclusion and restraint, it is presented as a list of guidelines and suggestions. Chris, does this have the same weight as a written policy? Are policies and guidelines the same or is there more legal wiggle room, here?

Anonymous said...

Why is anyone surprised at this? When the special education report is reviewed it is clear that the district simply does not have the competence to administer a special education program. And if you review the progress report recently provided to the board you will know that it's not just the special education program which has failed. Most subgroups in the ICCSD other than already high performing kids do worse than other districts in Iowa. This includes, IEP, FRL, black, and hispanic kids. And it's not a lack of money that causes this - other Iowa districts don't have this problem and they have the same funding constraints.

At some point parents and the board need to hold our administration responsible. Because the board continues (by a 4-3 vote) to support the administration, voting no on the bond issue is the best way to show our dissatisfaction with the administration.

Anonymous said...

Around here (Connecticut) schools are doing very well with teaching kids yoga and meditation. The kids are brought to a nice room with rugs and good lighting and are asked to calm themselves. When they feel they can control their outbursts through meditation, they return to class.

http://www.syracuse.com/schools/index.ssf/2016/09/schools_turn_to_yoga_meditation_instead_of_detention_suspension.html

Anonymous said...

http://dondivamag.com/iowa-schools-seclusion-rooms-seem-to-only-be-the-hole-for-little-troubled-kids/?doing_wp_cron=1479011650.7480061054229736328125

Anonymous said...

Are these rooms even permitted by building code? There usually are size requirements, window requirements, ventilation requirements, access requirements by hallway, etc?

Lance said...

I discount the outrage here by anyone that has a child in the school district, especially in an Elementary School, and did not already know these existed. Chris L should be embarrassed.

These rooms and a blunt and imperfect tool to deal with the complexities of handling an increasing number of students with severe behavioral issues. Got a better idea?

I have spoken MANY times to ES teachers, and have heard some horrific stories of students hurting other students and teachers (and themselves). I have seen pictures of an entire classroom destroyed by one child as the others were led to "safety". I consider our family fortunate that - although they have been struck and CERTAINLY disrupted - none of my children have been badly hurt by on of these students.

As for "lawsuits", they go both ways: I would be much more concerned about lawsuits brought by parents of students or by teachers who were assaulted by a student lashing out than by the parents of a student put in a box THAT THEY APPROVED.


I don't like the box. I really don't. But apparently it works fairly often.

If you don't like the box, IMHO you have two choices:
*"un-mainstream", and create a school/facility for those students.
* when an incident happens - and they happen every day - call the parent and have the child removed for the day. Escalate removal duration as necessary based on accumulation of incidents.

Anonymous said...

Lance,
No, you are presenting a false choice. The state came into the school district recently and audited special education. The report was just bad. Good early intervention services work wonders and could prevent some incidents if services were provided as they should be. Services have not been done correctly in ICCSD.

When the newspaper reports that kids have been put in these rooms for pouting and getting out of line there is a huge problem.

The box is not supposed to be used "fairly often." It's not for minor discipline problems.

These boxes are not "rooms."

The state doesn't require the use of these boxes.

All parents are supposed to be notified and weren't.

Chris, it would be helpful to see a list of where the boxes are and when they were put in. Can you post this info?

Anonymous said...

Lance you sound like Kirschling when he was looking at how often ses integration plans failed. Nothing more to offer than the petty rationale of "we can't do nothing." What's up with you guys, you sound helpless? Ever heard of research? A kid that is destroying a room gets put into a box in front of their class, then what? Sits in there and that's supposed to be an acceptable learning environment on either side of that box? You really want a kid to sit in a room and watch a kid get penned up like an animal then listen to that kid suffer? Cause there are better ways but the way the district wants to move the black low income schools around it is no surprise this type of hopeless treatment of struggling kids exists in this town.

Anonymous said...

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/pennsylvania-school-controls-classrooms-harsh-restraints/story?id=17869365

ICCSD should look at improving its positive behavior program. Kids sometimes get over rewarded for just doing what they are supposed to do making the rewards kind of worthless and the kids not take them seriously. Teachers need more better training to manage the classroom.

11/8 at 327 made mention of yoga and meditation. This is worth trying.

Being shut in a box could make a lot of behaviors worse.

Anonymous said...

Lance,

First of all, I think it is worth mentioning that no, parents do not need to approve of the use of restraint and seclusion for it to be implemented on their child. Any child can be placed in seclusion for physically harming others, there in an imminent threat of harm or are "creating a disruption", according to ICCSD Restraint and Seclusion guidelines. The term "disruption" is very problematic in that it does create a grey area where possible implicit bias or misuse can occur. I suggest that you take a look at the Gazette article and the incident reports obtained chronicling a mere month's worth of incidents of seclusion. While many document that children were placed in seclusion for physical aggression, many do appear to be frequently used for instances of simple non-compliance.

If a parent DOES sign off on the use of restraint and seclusion as part of a child's IEP, the term, "Time Out", is used. Many parents simply aren't aware of what a seclusion room may look like at their school, may think that it implies something less restrictive or may not think that they have a choice (if suspension is the only other option).

Parents and educators can agree that no one wants anyone to get hurt. If a child does escalate to the point where seclusion may be the only option, there is no need for the space where a child can go to calm down to appear to be so punitive. Plywood and recycled tires as padding on the inside are not materials that are congruent with federal guidance that children's dignity be respected at all times. More open spaces, bean bag chairs, brighter colors and making these less enclosed (like using half-doors) are models that have successfully been adopted by other districts and other states. If restraint and seclusion are specifically designed to be used as tools for calming and promoting safety, why do they look like solitary confinement? They simply invite use as punishment.

Anonymous said...

I believe parents only sign an initial consent form for special education services. We don't sign the IEP prior written notice or the IEP review or IEP reevaluation. It's possible parents don't understand what's in the IEP and without seeing a picture of the boxes, parents probably wouldn't understand what time out means even when its in the IEP.

Anonymous said...

How ironic is it, after all of the bullying and BS that has been going on in our schools, that a SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER maintains a blog that allows anonymous bullies to come here and post and spew their twisted agendas and lies and hatred without showing their true faces? Chris Liebig, as an elected official, stop this hypocrisy. Be a leader.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:00je I like anonymous postings and I feel like this blog provides a lot of good information via anonymous posts. Then again there are "anonymous" posts like yours but they come with the territory. And that's okay.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:00AM - I actually don't see a lot of 'bullying' on here. What I do see is stakeholders expressing their opinions towards a tyrannical school district. Chris Liebig is far from a bully - if you want to see a bully look in the direction of Murley, Lynch and other associated iccsd cronies. I know for a fact that there are iccsd employees, parents and community members that post in this blog anonymously because they are afraid of hostility or possible retaliation from administration or those that don't agree with their opinions. Unfortunately, there are not many outlets available where we can openly discuss important issues facing our district. The Thought Exchange program available is absolutely worthless and a total waste of money as if produces filtered and canned responses that don't reflect our opinions at all and doesn't really allow for discussion since the process is not real time. Chris presents intelligent and factually based articles for us to consume and discuss. Thanks Chris!

Anonymous said...

11-23 Anonymous @ 1:00 -- the topic is seclusion boxes. Do you have something to say about seclusion boxes?

There are other forums like FB's Discuss Iowa City Schools II that does censor and exclude people if you want to be on a monitored page.

Thanks Chris.

Anonymous said...

It seems a little disingenuous to criticize anonymous comments anonymously, 1:00je. I know there are people in this district who are used to accepting whatever the administration hands down, but there's a pretty big difference between being critical and bullying. Thanks, Chris, for bringing to light important issues like the use of seclusion boxes, which everyone should know about. These are public schools, after all.

Unknown said...

Hi!
I am with the huffington post and we would like to use your two photos of seclusion rooms in a short video we are making. Please email me at tiffany.mcneil@huffpost.com

Thanks!
T