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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County School District is once again taking heat for the use of “seclusion rooms.” A family has filed a formal complaint with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

The parents of a special needs five-year-old filed the complaint. They believe disabled students are being treated unfairly when it comes to seclusion rooms.

“It’s not talked about. It’s kept quiet. It’s New Hanover County Schools’ dirty little secret,” said Sara Reider, a parent of a special needs child.

Reider’s child has been put in a seclusion room multiple times. She’s not the person who filed a complaint against the school system, but she is part of NC Fear Free Education, a local group that is trying to get seclusion rooms banned.

“It can exacerbate behaviors. Children are dehumanized. They’re traumatized. There’s long lasting effects. They’re stressed. Anxiety increases,” Reider said of seclusion rooms.

The small, padded seclusion rooms are used for children with special needs, and they are often a part of their individual education plan, or IEP.

“It’s not an idea that you’re putting somebody in an area and you’re going to put them there for a specified period of time until they can quote ‘learn how to behave.’ That’s not what it’s all about. It’s about deescalation, safety, so they can’t hurt themselves or hurt someone else,” New Hanover Co. Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Holliday said.

Holliday says when it comes to seclusion rooms they follow House Bill 1032, which is known as the Greenblatt Act. But Reider says that does not make it right.

“The law is quite convoluted,” she said. “There’s a lot of leeway in there. It’s hard for anybody to read that law and understand what is what.”

As for the formal complaint filed this week, it claims children with special needs are discriminated against, because the rooms are specifically for them. Dr. Holliday has a different take.

“There are lots of intervention that you may use for children who are entitled that you may not use for someone else because they don’t need that intervention, so everyone’s individual education plan is just that: it is individual,” he said. “Interventions that are used in all those plans are specific to that particular child.”

The family who filed the complaint wishes to remain anonymous.

As of now, the school district has not received official word of the formal complaint.

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44 Comments on "Complaint filed against New Hanover Co. Schools over seclusion rooms"

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2016 years 2 months ago

That is not true! I’m sure some people misuse these rooms but I have witnessed these rooms being used for the safety of the staff and other students. They are padded and the child is safe in the room. It is no different that putting the child in time out.

2016 years 2 months ago

First of all, NC has no union for teachers! Parents should NOT be allowed to make the rules in the school system. Kids should NOT have more rights than teachers. If any kid punches a teacher in the face they should be put into a seclusion room. I’m sure those parents that petitioned the seclusion room will get what they want. Teachers will continue to get slapped, punched, kicked, spit on, etc. It’s ok, teachers gave up their rights when they signed their contracts.

Observant Bystander
2016 years 2 months ago

I look to the parents and the doctors who seem to be searching for something to “be wrong with” the child.

Another Parent
2016 years 2 months ago

1st – children with special needs are not “misbehaving” most have underlying medical issues that create in part sensory issues.

More important – what happened to compassion and accountability?

How can an educator inflict bodily harm yet go unpunished? This is a real issue which cost over 200 kids their lives at the hands of educators. And yes this is a civil rights issue which I signed the petition and stand by.


The public school system can be a nightmare, and I speak from personal experience. You have uneducated staff, ignorant administrators who are only interested in funding and public image.… Read more »

2016 years 2 months ago

I have a relative with highly functional Autism / Asperger’s Syndrome at Hoggard High School in Wilmington, NC.

Before I begin… Kevin, we love you buddy and are SO very proud of you!

We hurt for the abuse you have had to endure at Hoggard High School.

Never in a million years, would your parents or family have this torment and torture happen to you and your parents have done everything they can to stop it, but no one will listen to these schools “dirty little secret”.

North Carolina State LAW – NCGS §115C-391.1 specifically defines… Read more »

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