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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.


Comment on this Story

  • sure

    And you would be the last person I would trust. An educator out to protect other educators!

  • Now I’m a Parent

    This is all mostly true. Back then again I was the child who needed the special help! Back then we didn’t have so many problems and if we did the kid was just beat and told to do better! I remember the days. I’m glad someone came to my aid!

  • Guest2012

    There is a school for autistic children downtown, take your kids there or homeschool. Maybe the parents don’t want a kid who is violent and out of control to be around their children. Our kids are entitled to a “fear free” education also!

  • Guest2012

    I have been in education for 15 years, and I have never seen a child put in a seclusion room for the types of things you listed. I think that maybe you are not telling the truth or, you are not willing to admit that your child has issues.

  • Guest2012

    Are you kidding me? Are people that ignorant? These rooms are not only used for specila needs kids. It has to be in their IEP. I have seen this room used in several situations. Let me give you some examples and you decide if you would like your child subjected to such behavior.

    -punching the teacher in the face
    -punching the principal in the face
    -punching the assisstance officer in the face
    -urinating (on purpose) on the other children
    -taking pooh out of thier own pants and wiping it on another child
    -cutting themselves with scissors
    -throwing chairs at other students
    -scratching teachers with objects

    There are many more examples, these are just a few. People need to wake-up! Kids are violent and there has to be something that teachers can do to keep themselves and other children safe.

  • Guest2012

    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.

  • Guest2012

    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

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

  • Another Parent

    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.

    Unfortunately all the negative energy these people inflict take focus away from the efforts of the great special education teachers who know how to stay grounded and calm to help the kids through their sensory meltdowns…they stand back and give them calming space to regroup while also getting into their world. They see the child beyond the behaviors and know how to engage the child to allow them to have more successful days than not. Isn’t that after-all the reason they became special ed teachers? Come on…I doubt it is for the pay!

    After reading some of these comments, I am saddened by the lack of understanding and general compassion. Our society seems to be very quick to “pounce” and “react” which in most cases only escalates the matter.

    Yes, I know there are some kids who can have violent outbursts – I came into the classroom after the teacher was punched in the face by a student – they were just sitting there reading together, all was fine and he “Snapped”. the cause? reaction to a court ordered pyscho-tropic drug.

    Overall environment also plays a huge key – take a look around the schools – toxic cleaning products which aren’t good for anyone, florescent lighting which would drive the most sane person nuts let alone a child who can see the flickering like a strobe light and most important – the staff and parent relationships. Is the relationship toxic or is there daily and open communication? No sweeping things under the rug on one side to protect your job school reputation or just dropping and letting the school take care of things on the other.

    We all have equal responsibility to ensure the safety and well being of every student, regardless of ability. And, if the school district is not doing right by every student, and the continue to refuse to ignore the parents requests, and the Unions continue to stand behind bad teachers, then they will continue to have law suits filed against them.

    My question is, if the educators and administrators are so brilliant and truly do care for the safety and well being for all, then why does it take a band of parents to sue them in Federal Court to get them to take notice, accept accountability and make changes these same parents have been trying through open communication to resolve for years?

  • Das Weibstück

    This kid is highly functional ? If that is the case why cant he take the same tests as the other students? WHY doesn’t that part piss you off? You want everything equal right? You say he is sent to the room when a test is given? Is that because he cant pass the test or he cant sit quietly and not disturb the others?

    You said he is a “fragile human being”. Ok, then why would you want him in public schools? You cant have this both ways. If you insist on putting “special” kids with the un~special kids why do the un~special majority have to bend to suite you? What would you have them do with him during the times he cant deal with the situation in class? Handcuffs maybe? Drugs? Ok how about no kid gets the test cause “special kid” cant take it. Or the whole art class is dismissed cause there is no seat for “special kid”.

    Why don’t you go sit with him all day so you can handle it? How is that the teachers job? Teachers have a LOT of students to handle and adding “special” kids to the mix is unfair to everyone else.

    I did a lot of volunteering in schools, I have seen these kids in action.

  • Guest998877

    Schools are expected to work miracles for all with lots of criticism from all. Whatever happened to the expectation of good behavior and self discipline. We have provided a long list of excuses why our children cannot function in school without an insistence to rise to the occasion. Stop expecting the schools to be all things to all people. Start expecting our children to behave, to work in school, to learn, to be ready for the challenges they will face or face the extinction of our nation.

  • Parent

    Are you absolutely sure these rooms are used in accordance with established laws? If so, why would it be necessary for teachers to lie under oath and deny the use of the room as they did in my child’s case? The answer is simple. The rooms are most often used not when a child is a danger to himself or to others, but rather as a punishment for minor non-compliance, failure to finish a task, inability to understand and follow directions, and a host of other manifestations of disabilities.

  • red duck

    There are several issues present that anyone without a developmentally disabled child wouldn’t know.
    One is that not every school in New Hanover County uses these techniques. There are schools here where the staff is both skilled and knowledgeable enough that these rooms have the door taken off completely. Then there are schools where the teachers and administration will tell a parent that if seclusion and restraint is not used that their child is not going to really receive an adequate education unless the school can apply these techniques. It really depends on what school a child attends.
    Another is that the school administration is supposed (by NC statute) to keep detailed records of each time a child is kept isolated in a locked room. This includes the behaviors child exhibits, the staff involved, length of time seclusion is used. Staff who use physical restraints and seclusion as part of an IEP are supposed to be trained.
    Our children receive therapy from physicians, pediatricians, psychiatrists, and neurologists, they have case managers, psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and respite workers. No one else uses this technique, restraint and seclusion, except schools.
    Also it is not about “PC” if our children participate equally, it is the law, both state and federal.
    Our kids are growing up, and they need education, they need to be independent, they need to be able to work. With the disparities between special education programs between schools here in New Hanover County, some kids will get to that point, but many won’t.
    Parent of an autistic 12 year old

  • Enough already

    The mainstreaming of all Special Needs children is not and never will be the answer. Educating children is a difficult enough process without having to decide on the best way to bring an out of control and potential violent special needs child under control. This always being PC for every little things has to stop. These rooms are needed for the safety of everyone involved and are used in accordance with established laws. Suggesting a school dedicated to a special needs children would be seen as wrong. So unless you have a solution that protects the teachers, other students and administrators from these disruptive children stop complaining or home school.

  • Das Weibstück

    Main streaming special needs kids does not always work. Some SN kids do well but the others are a nuisance to the other students and should not be allowed to disrupt other students learning process. BUT they are and do because its PC now.

  • Guest11212121

    For all of you that have posted against seclusion rooms, then what is the answer? What do you do with a child with exceptional needs that is out of control? Now, think for a second. If you do not use a seclusion room and the child is injured or injures another student/teacher, then what are you people going to be saying. Is it perfect, no! Are there probably some teachers that use it to often as an easy fix, yes! But these rooms are need and appropriate if used correctly. I an open for other options. Stop saying the rooms need to go away and give some other options. Now with that said, think of the school budget when doing this.

  • Tom

    I’d like the posters who think this is okay, what makes the rights of a special needs child different from that of one without these needs?
    You can’t lay your hands on a ‘normal’ child, so what makes it okay to do it to one with autism? These kids are placed in a school designated to deal with their needs and this is the best they can come up with???

    It is a dirty secret indeed how ill equipped they are in dealing with the children placed in their care. The principal at our child’s school(which is the one designated for children with needs in our area) is COMPLETELY clueless in dealing with autism. She’d rather create an environment that caters to her community pool buddies who all manage to conveniently get picked to enroll in the year round school. Autism awareness does not EXIST there. These kids are sent to these specific schools to be mainstreamed, NOT manhandled.

  • common sense

    haha…”seclusion rooms”…the biggest waste of money I’ve ever heard of! And the ignorant administrators and politicians just want to raise taxes and throw more money at “the problem”…if parents and teachers were able to control their kids there would be NO need for this nonsense! Think about it, years ago there were over 30 kids in each classroom-and our teachers didn’t have “helpers”, if a student acted the fool they got a paddling in class and again at home! Now days, the kids can’t wipe their own ass, because the parents do everything for them, enabling them to be losers…blame blame blame everything on someone else! disgusting!

  • Brian

    Parents should either be available to come to the school to deal with their child’s behavior whenever they are needed, or allow the school to deal with it the way they see fit. Too many parents of special needs kids want to pass off their care to someone else, and then criticize when something doesn’t go the way they want it to.

  • AveryConcernedRelative

    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 when and how a student may be confined. (The Art Teacher not wanting Kevin in her class because an Autistic child bight disrupt her by asking a question not pertaining to art does not qualify legally as such)
    This Generat Statute may be found at http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_115C/GS_115C-391.1.html

    The NHC Policy 84562 specifies that this law specifically Must be followed. It has NOT been. Furthermore, I question its constitutional rights for having lack of specific definition as to that qualifies a student to be placed in seclusion if he/she is not physically damaging something or someone. Obviously as an educator you missed the Nova special on PBS where talked about the basics of Autism.. Oh wait… you were taught that prior to receiving your teacher’s certification.

    The question is.. What are you supposed to do when you go to the principal, essentially the EVP of a school and ask for help and are denied help that violates the basic constitutional rights afforded to a human being.. Worse, to a very, very special, caring, loving and fragile human being….

    When a teacher 9such as art class) wants to teach art and not deal with a special needs student, they send him to the special padded room.
    The Art teacher at Hoggard sent my nephew to a padded seclusion room, because “her class was full” and “she did not have a seat for him in her class” (albeit he was SUPPOSED to be in her class. What a heartless, soulless person to do this to a child. The art teacher shouldn’t even have the privilege to call herself a teacher and should refer to herself as a heartless punisher and tormenter. SHAME!
    When a class is taking a test and the teacher wants him out of the room, they send him to the padded room…
    And, during this time he is not misbehaving, having outbursts, etc… They just do NOT want to deal with a special needs child and the Hoggard teachers who do not want to deal with him, send him to a the padded room.
    He has been sent so many times, that now he walks himself into the room when told to go, or when “accidently” shut out of his class, closes the door and sits there.
    He has been in there as little as ten minutes and as long as a few hours.
    He has been in there alone, deprived of his constitutional right to a public education, secluded from his peers and is now tormented with nightmares fearing school, fearing the teachers who do not teach, feeling shamed, unloved and unwanted.

    The parents have gone to Hoggard High School several times, again and again…. and NOTHING is accomplished…. Nothing is done.. Our nephew returns to his cell of solitude. It is chalked up as “normal”, procedural, and common.. Standard Operational Procedure.

    He is smart, loving, wonderful young man who did not choose nor elect to have this disability.
    He does not act out, is eager to learn, make friends and love others yet Hoggard High School continues to DENY his the basic human rights afforded to its “normal” students.

    The principal brushes off the parents, does not return their calls unless bugged to the point is becomes bothersome or further action is threatened.

    Caged animals are treated better than he is, and he is being treated in this inhumane manner in an intuition designed to teach him basic educational skills NOT shame him and destroy progress made by those who DO care.

    Haggard I publically challenge you to either STOP placing him in a padded room day after day and leaving him to sit in solitude where his mental and psychological condition continues to be degraded by your actions and reputable and permanent mental damage and anguish scars him deeper for life OR I challenge you to place him in an educational setting that is caring and empathetic with trained teachers, with teachers who DO educate and teachers who DO care and want to teach him and see he learns to live up to his potential.
    To the Reiders’; you are our heroes. Thank you for shedding light on this issue. Hopefully other special and autistic children will not continue to have to suffer as our families precious children and relatives have had to. Kevin is forever scarred by Hoggard’s actions and the principal’s refusal to step up to the plate, to be a decent human being, intervene, do what’s right, and make sure this special, special boy gets what his rights guarantee him. A public education without fear of harm, retaliation, or retribution.
    I pray your child gets the justice all these special people deserve.
    I have elected to stay out of this until now.
    Now the parents rights handbook that looks to have been hidden out of the main list of policies and procedures can be hound here: http://www.nhcs.k12.nc.us/support/ParentRightHndbk/ParentsRightHandbook_0809.pdf EVERY parent should read it.
    PS.. Don’t try to falsify your documentation. You do not know which days he has been to school with his Flip Video and which days he hasn’t.
    Furthermore because of Kevin’s LD, you are required to notify the parents when Kevin has been sent to seclusion. You have not notified them on every occasion.
    Have you provided the parents with a copy of the parental rights?
    You have daughters at your school whom I am CERTAIN you would NEVER have sit in that dreadful padded cell imprisoned.
    Do you condone ALL corporal punishment or just the injustice at Hoggard High School? I mean.. You already have teachers physically push students with a broom down the hall in an act you call “Being Swept” if they are not in their class, so we already know that you are perfectly ok with public humiliation
    I cannot believe you OR your art teacher think you can call yourselves educators.. Actions like yours however would have made for wonderful torturers executioners back in medieval times.
    The law was enacted to protect students from themselves@ NOT put them away when YOU didn’t want to deal with them!

    Will this complaint be allowed to be “hidden” as school policy for our county states it can? (be held close to origin) http://www.nhcs.net/policies/series9000/9510.pdf

    Did you break policy 8020
    Furthermore, no student, on the basis of race, color, creed, gender, national origin or disability, is to be excluded from participating in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity conducted by the school system, except as allowed by law. http://www.nhcs.net/policies/series8000/8020.pdf
    7140 your policy on special needs children is vage, limited and pathetic. http://www.nhcs.net/policies/series7000/7140.pdf
    Have you protected the student’s rights? http://www.nhcs.net/policies/series8000/8305.pdf

    Did you kick hiimn oput of art room for Disruption of the Learning Environment under policy 8410? http://www.nhcs.net/policies/series8000/8410.pdf (That would nullify other policies protecting his rights if you did)

    Oh… and your policy $6440 http://www.nhcs.net/policies/series6000/6440.pdf requires that we as volunteers (also loosely` defined as we volunteer our time to help your pupils in our homes) are required to report your abuse, by law…
    Parents if your child is special needs, please follow the other parents in contacting the the following. Help is free!
    United States Government Office for Civil Rights (OCR) 1-800-421-3481 by email at OCR@EDU.gov

    The National Autism Society
    4340 East-West Hwy, Suite 350
    Bethesda, Maryland 20814
    1(800) 328-8476

    GRASP (Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership)
    666 Broadway, suite 825
    New York, NY 10012
    1.888.474.7277 (888.47.GRASP)

    State of North Carolina ACLU Chapter (American Civil Liberties Union)
    Executive Director: Jennifer Rudinger
    P.O. Box 28004
    Raleigh, NC 27611
    Phone: (919) 834-3390 | Email: aclunc@nc.rr.com

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