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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The controversy over New Hanover County Schools’ use of seclusion rooms is now the subjection of a federal investigation.

The Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office is looking into a claim that seclusion rooms are only being used on students with disabilities.

It all started with a complaint from a student’s parents last month. They alleged their son and other students with autism were put into seclusion rooms. They also said the rooms are only being used on students with disabilities.

The parents received formal notification late last week from the Department of Education that it has opened an investigation. The DOE’s Civil Rights Office said, though, that the investigation in no way implies that it made a determination to the merits of the complaint.

School Board member Dr. Derrick Hickey says he was well aware of the concerns from the parents who filed the complaint. Hickey added that prior to even hearing about an investigation he was pulling for an open discussion on the seclusion rooms.

“I just think it would be valuable to have an open discussion about what parents are seeing within the schools,” Hickey said.

The School Board member says while several parents have told him the padded rooms are a great way to assist their child while at school; several others have also come forward with concerns.

“I think parents need to understand that we share their concerns that their children are being taken care of appropriately,” said Hickey. “We want to pursue best practices as well. I was hoping to start an open dialogue with groups of people so that if there are problems then we can fix them.”

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