New Hanover County Schools to end use of seclusion rooms starting 2023-24 school year

The New Hanover County Board of Education voted unanimously to end the use of seclusion rooms on Tuesday night.
Seclusion Rooms
NHCS Seclusion Rooms discussion (Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County Board of Education voted unanimously to end the use of seclusion rooms on Tuesday night.

Dozens of advocates have been coming to the board meetings pushing for this change for months, but some say this step was not far enough.

Policy 4302-R discusses the use of seclusion and restraint on students. The policy defines seclusion as confining a student in an enclosed space they cannot get out of and seclusion rooms are padded spaces used for seclusion.

The board voted on a policy amendment that prohibited the use of seclusion rooms starting in the 2023-24 school year, but not seclusion.

Concerned parent Sandy Eyles, who has been outspoken about seclusion rooms, says this change makes the policy even more dangerous.

“We don’t know if it’s going to be a safe space, we don’t know if items in the room will have been removed so a student can’t self-injure themselves. If there’s going to be padding on the wall if a student bangs their head against the wall. We don’t know if there’s going to be a window so that staff can have eyes on them at all times. It’s very concerning that they could just choose a closet and lock a kid in,” Eyles said.

During the board’s discussion about the policy, Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Julie Varnam explained the policy change.

The policy partially reads:

“Seclusion of a student by school personnel may be used in the following circumstances:
        a. as reasonably needed to respond to a person in control of a weapon or other dangerous object;
        b. as reasonably needed to maintain order or prevent or break up a fight;
        c. as reasonably needed for self-defense;
       d. as reasonably needed when a student’s behavior poses a threat of imminent physical harm to self or others or imminent substantial destruction of school or another person’s property; or
       e. when used as specified in the student’s IEP, Section 504 plan, or behavior intervention plan; and
  1) the student is monitored by an adult in close proximity who is able to see and hear the student at all times while the student is in seclusion;
  2) the student is released from seclusion upon cessation of the behaviors that led to the seclusion, or as otherwise specified in the student’s IEP, Section 504 plan, or behavior intervention plan;
  3) the confining space has been approved for such use by the school system;
  4) the space is appropriately lighted, ventilated, and heated or cooled; and
  5) the space is free from objects that unreasonably expose the student or others to harm.”

Varnam explained the updated policy eliminates the use of seclusion rooms in part e, so it can only be used in the emergency situations outlined in parts a, b, c, and d.

“The only use of seclusion would be for emergency situations that could not have been predicted but not as a regular de-escalation strategy for our students,” Varnam told the board.

Board of Education Chair Stephanie Kraybill says the district has been working to phase out the use of seclusion rooms already, but the change will go into effect starting in the 2023-24 school per the updated policy,

“We can’t eliminate seclusion completely because there are opportunities for a child to go into crisis mode. We cannot eliminate the whole practice without leaving our teachers, our staff, and others students in a vulnerable position,” Kraybill said.

To read the updated Policy 4302-R, visit here.

Categories: Local, New Hanover, New Hanover, Top Stories