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.