Twelve Lawmakers Push to Ban Isolated Time-Out in Schools

By Melina Wisecup

Twelve lawmakers are calling on the Department of Education to ban student seclusion nationwide. The push comes after Illinois announced it would ban the practice statewide. People are concerned the ‘isolated time-out’ is being overused as a form of discipline.

On Wednesday, January 15, Congress members and two senators petitioned in a letter to the Department of Education, stating:

“We were relieved … However, that makes Illinois only the fifth state to ban seclusion. There are tens of millions of American children still at risk of experiencing this detrimental practice.”

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that seclusion rooms are used more often than what is reported to the Civil Rights Data Collection—a group that oversees reports, and ensures that schools are not violating student’s rights.

The practice is meant for emergencies when students pose a safety risk to others. For example, if they get out of control and may physically harm other students or teachers. However, a November report by ProPublica Illinois revealed that sometimes the rooms were used for relatively small reasons—students refusing to do classwork or throwing toys.

Stock photo of students working on the computer.
Stock photo of students working on the computer. (Pixabay)

More recently, attention is being drawn to this approach, and a psychologist shares his perspective on how we can address the situation from a different angle.

Dr. Jeff Gardere said, “If you look at this in a more psychological and therapeutic manner as we should because we’re talking about children, we’re talking about minors. These are kids perhaps who are acting out because they cannot identify what the anxiety or the anger or the sadness or the angst that they are experiencing, and therefore, they act it out physically.” He continued, “This is a cry for help, and I believe, as teachers, as counselors, we should look at helping that student to do better in the classroom instead of just shunning them.”

Seclusion is used in various states across the nation, and now only 5 states completely ban any form of seclusion for students with disabilities. With Illinois pushing for national attention, we will see if more states ban the practice in the future.