Commentary

05.12.14

Children Are Still Not Safe from Seclusion in Ohio Charter Schools

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It has been more than a year since the Ohio State Board of Education (BOE) restricted the use of seclusion and restraint in Ohio public schools, yet charter schools are still permitted to operate outside the rules.

Now, a piece of state legislation aims to hold these schools to the same rules that govern other taxpayer-funded educational institutions.

Prior to 2013, public schoolchildren were being locked in small rooms, sometimes for hours at a time, and schools were not even required to notify parents that it was happening.

Today, children who attend traditional public schools cannot be restrained in a way that causes physical harm, nor can they be secluded in a locked room or deprived of basic needs like water, food, or access to the restroom.

Parents have the right to be notified of all restraint and seclusion incidents involving their children. School districts are now required to develop a complaint procedure, which allows parents to initiate an investigation, and schools must respond to parents’ complaints.

These are common sense rules. That is why we repeatedly asked the State BOE to apply them to charter schools, which are also funded by taxpayer money. Unfortunately, they failed to do so, which means that children who attend traditional public schools currently have rights and protections that over 115,000 Ohio charter school students do not.

At the ACLU of Ohio, we believe all public school students should be protected.

Responsible charter school officials do not disagree.

In an article that originally appeared in Special Ed Connection, Tim Ryan, vice president for Ohio programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute said that limiting the use of restraint and seclusion “was the proper and appropriate move for the state board to make.” Ryan went on to say, “as a matter of principle, it should extend to the charter schools.”

Ohio Senate Bill 266 would hold charter schools to the same standards as traditional public schools. The ACLU of Ohio supports this legislation because we believe all Ohio school children should be safe from abusive restraint and seclusion practices, regardless of the type of public school they attend.

Safety in school is a right, not a choice!

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