Commentary

12.01.14

Close the Loophole: Protect Charter Schoolchildren From Restraint and Seclusion

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Update – 12/17/2014: Ohio Senate Bill 266 was amended to House Bill 178 and passed unanimously, extending the seclusion and restraint provisions of rule 3301-35-15 to public charter schools.

Last month the Ohio Department of Education released its first analysis of the use of restraint and seclusion in Ohio schools. This analysis only includes data from traditional public schools, not public charter schools.

Why?

Public charter schools are not currently required to tell anyone about their use of restraint or seclusion on children.

Hopefully, this discrepancy will end soon. This week the Ohio Senate Education Committee will hold its second hearing and a possible vote on Senate Bill 266.  The bill is an attempt to right an oversight that left thousands of Ohio schoolchildren unprotected.

In April 2013, the Ohio Department of Education implemented rule 3301-35-15. Prior to the implementation of this rule, all of Ohio’s public schoolchildren were being locked in small rooms—sometimes for hours at a time—and schools were not required to notify parents that it was happening.

Read the ACLU of Ohio, Seclusion Rooms: A Civil Liberties Briefing.

For more than a year since the passage of rule 3301-35-15, traditional public schoolchildren have had protections they did not previously have. The rule restricts the use of physical restraints and seclusion, implements positive behavior intervention supports, and requires reporting and monitoring. Parents must now be notified of all restraint and seclusion incidents involving their children.

School districts are required to develop a complaint procedure, which allows parents to initiate an investigation, and schools must respond to parents’ complaints. Children can no longer 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.

This rule offers some guidance and limitations that protect children and school districts. Unfortunately, this rule as passed only applies to traditional public schools and not to public charter schoolchildren.

Clearly, all of Ohio’s public schoolchildren deserve the same protections, whether they attend a traditional public school or public charter school. This is why we asked the Ohio Department of Education to extend the rule to Ohio’s public charter schools in a letter.

Read The Columbus Dispatch article, ACLU wants new limits on seclusion expanded.

SB 266 will do just that—extend rule 3301-35-15 to protect the 115,000 students currently enrolled in public charter schools from isolation in seclusion rooms or hours of restraint.

The ACLU of Ohio supports SB 266 and the fair and humane treatment of all of Ohio’s public school children.

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