Time-Out Rooms - Is There a Better Way?

Filed under: Opinions

chalkboardTime-out rooms, also known as seclusion rooms, are used in special education programs around the country. Usually a means of last resort, they're closet-sized rooms with a lockable door and a window with unbreakable glass.

The idea is, when a student has lost control of their behavior, they can be removed to the time-out room to calm down. Some states have restrictions on how long kids can spend in the rooms -- 15 minutes, for instance, and well-run programs use the rooms within the boundaries of a behavior management program.

CNN is reporting, though, that the rooms can also be a hot bed of abuse. Lack of regulation makes use (and abuse) of these rooms hard to track, and untrained staff are often put in charge of situations that they have no idea how to handle. In 2004, a 13-year-old boy killed himself while in a time-out room, an untrained substitute standing by.

Fresh out of college, I worked in an classroom for the emotionally impaired in a public elementary school. The time-out room was right in my classroom, a worst-case scenario, because when the room was in use, the entire classroom was disrupted.

Though we followed every letter of the law, I could not wait for the day that room was torn down. Not only did it deny my kids dignity when they had to use it, I always felt like there had to be a more "evolved" way to teach them long-term skills for managing their behavior.

Turns out, there was. About six months into my first year, we hired an aide and had her trained in a cognitive behavior management program. When a student lost control in any classroom, they would visit her desk-lined classroom and work on a plan on how they could handle things the next time around. By the end of that school year, my time-out room was strictly used for storage, and my room was calmer than ever.

Though I've never supported the use of seclusion rooms, phasing them out requires extra resources for training and staff, at a time when money is in short supply. At a bare minimum, I think, parents need to give permission before their child is ever placed in a time-out room; the door to the rooms should never, ever lock; and using them should require strict documentation and oversight.

What do you think about time-out rooms?

Should schools be allowed to use time-out rooms?
No. There's too much risk of abuse.36 (30.8%)
No. It's not an appropriate way to teach good behavior.41 (35.0%)
Yes. But only in extreme situations.25 (21.4%)
Yes. I can't see anything wrong with using them.11 (9.4%)
Other -- Share with us in comments.4 (3.4%)

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.