Officials will dismantle isolation room at Lincoln Elementary School

From The Daily Courier; Prescott, AZ

Friday, May 29, 2009

Prescott Unified School District officials plan to dismantle a padded room at Lincoln Elementary School that has been a part of the “self-contained emotionally disturbed student program” for more than 12 years.

PUSD Superintendent Kevin told The Daily Courier this week that the district had never received a “parent complaint about using the room when their child becomes violent.”

That does not seem to be the case anymore.

Parent/special needs student advocate Ray Parenteau said he got his first look at the room more than a week ago when a parent of a special needs student tipped him off about it.

Parenteau said the six-foot by six-foot room is “horrific.”

Kapp said Friday evening that officials from the Department of Education’s Flagstaff office inspected the isolation room May 22. He said the DofE would issue two reports – one about the collection of data and the other a letter of recommendations.

However, even before receiving those reports, Kapp said district officials “decided to shut down the isolation room. We decided two things, one not to use the safety room (anymore) and to dismantle the room.”

Kapp said crews would probably dismantle the room next week.

In addition to dismantling the room, the superintendent said district officials contacted the Department of Education for help in developing procedures to deal with violent/emotionally disturbed children.

Kapp said, “We haven’t received any complaints from parents, but on the other hand, the use of seclusion rooms is very much in the public spotlight. The feeling is that they are not needed.”

The isolation room at Lincoln Elementary is the only one in the district, he said.

Kapp said both special education teachers at Lincoln “are trained and certified in non-violent crisis intervention.”

Non-violent crisis intervention includes talking students down and non-violent restraint methods.

Kapp said after dismantling the room, the school would have to develop other ways to handle violent special needs students. This could include calling the Prescott Police Department, which is the procedure at the middle schools.

On Friday evening, Parenteau said, “I think it is reprehensible that Kapp would say the district has to find another way to deal with the student’s violent behavior. These students are not violent. They are 6 to 11 years old.”

Parenteau said the district has two board-certified behavior analysts on contract. He said district officials might need to call them in to provide teachers with better ways to handle children’s unacceptable behavior.

He added that different ways exist to handle special education students and the district should turn to the experts and provide support to the teachers and staff who are working with the students.

The superintendent said the Department of Education became involved in the situation for two reasons: A district request that officials inspect the room and interview teachers, and a call from a parent that visited the room.

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