School punishment too harsh for children

Would public schools punish students using methods that could severely harm them? It seems so.

Seclusion rooms were originally used to calm down an angry or violent child, preventing them from hurting themselves or others. But recently public schools have used this method as a form of punishment, a practice that damages children and is unregulated in many places.

It comes as a shock that such forms of punishment are used in this day and age, especially when the harm they cause is so clear. While seclusion rooms may be necessary in extreme cases, where a child has become a threat to their own or others’ safety, schools should not use them to discipline students.

The New York Times reporter Bill Lichtenstein told of how, after noticing strange behavior in his daughter Rose, he was one day called to the school to find her locked in a closet for misbehavior. It had become a regular experience for the child, and six years later, she still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of it.

Rose is not alone. A study in Ohio found that out of 100 school districts, 39 of them had unregulated seclusion rooms — 40 percent of the schools. In fact, about 20 states have no rules for them at all.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, of 40,000 students who were isolated or restrained in some way, the majority developed physical, learning or behavioral issues.

How could using something often labeled “scream rooms” become an ordinary practice? Lack of regulations appears to be the bulk of the issue.

The seclusion method began in schools for students with special needs as a safety precaution, but in the 1970s, it slowly slid into public schools as well.

The slow transition left schools to monitor these methods themselves. With individual districts and sometimes even single teachers governing their use, faculty in many schools would abuse it to punish students.

Locking a child in an enclosed space is easier than other forms of discipline. It is quick and doesn’t require a teacher to deal with him or her for longer than they have to, giving it appeal to those who are willing to do it.

Anything that can emotionally harm children in such a way needs to be prevented, and the only thing that can truly stop this offense is legislation, whether it be from individual states or from Congress.

The Keeping All Students Safe Act was presented to Congress in December 2011. It would protect all students from harmful and life-threatening seclusion or restraint methods. But Congress referred the bill to a committee, and no results are expected from it any time soon.

So the responsibility of ending this may very well fall to individual states. Iowa has already amended its laws, requiring parental permission and training in order to use seclusion and restraint.

While other states are doing the same, it is still vital for seclusion and restraint methods to be restricted and heavily monitored in schools. Difficult as a student may be to deal with, no teacher has the right to abuse them with these practices.

Hopefully in the near future schools will eliminate this destructive punishment permanently.