CLEVELAND –Today the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to the Ohio State Board of Education asking that the state’s draft rules governing the use of seclusion and restraint be formally applied to community (charter) schools as well as traditional public schools.

“For years, Ohio schoolchildren — many of them disabled — have been routinely isolated and sometimes physically restrained with little or no oversight from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE),” said ACLU of Ohio Policy Director Shakyra Diaz. “Creating rules to govern these practices is an important first step. However, for the policy to work it must apply to all public schools, including charter schools.”

“Charter schools receive public funds and are required to meet many of the same requirements as traditional public schools in areas like parental notification, health and safety, and special education services,” added Diaz. “We believe the Ohio Department of Education is well within its authority to apply their new seclusion and restraint rules to charter schools.”

The ACLU letter has been sent during the public comment period for the draft policy, which ends on March 12. The letter also asks for revisions to reinforce ODE’s existing guidance on reducing racial isolation and to limit seclusion to no longer than 15 minutes without immediate administrative and parental notification. The current draft rules suggest that the practice be used for “the minimum amount of time” necessary but set no specific time limits.

Overall, the ACLU of Ohio hopes that Ohio’s new seclusion and restraint rules will lead to an increase in the use of positive behavior intervention techniques, which will eventually render the practice of seclusion and restraint unnecessary.

“There are better methods for student intervention, and schools should be making the transition to those methods,” said Diaz. “However, this transition will take time and training; in the meantime we need very specific rules on seclusion and restraint that are applied to all public schools.”