By Kristina Wong, The Hill, February 17, 2014
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is calling for an end to the use of “scream rooms” to discipline children in U.S. schools.
The Connecticut senator has proposed legislation that would end the practice of physically restraining students or secluding them in padded rooms, after learning that there were more than 30,000 such instances every year in schools across the state.
“That way to deal with behavior just does not work. Actually kids don’t respond to that,” Murphy said in an interview with local news station WTIC.
“There are just better ways to deal with behavioral issues than just locking kids up in padded rooms,” he said.
The rooms are as small as 4’x4’ or 6’x6’, he said.
Murphy said an overuse of restraint or seclusion could lead to mental and physical injury to children as well as to other children witnessing the practice.
Although some children are violent and could be threat to others, many of the children suffer from other conditions that would be best address via mental health programs, school counselors, and psychologists, Murphy said.
Forty percent of the kids that have been restrained or secluded in Connecticut have autism, and a disproportionate number of them have been Latino and black, he added.
“There’s very limited instances in which you have to restrain a kid, but there is absolutely no instance in which you have to lock a kid up in a room by himself,” Murphy said.
Earlier this month, a Senate Education Committee report called the rooms potentially unsafe and abusive.
A 2012 ABC News investigation found that “thousands of autistic and disabled schoolchildren had been injured and dozens died after being restrained by poorly trained teachers and school aides.”
In some cases, children were handcuffed, electrically shocked, or locked in padded rooms for hours. A 14-year-old Georgia boy who committed suicide after being repeatedly left alone for hours in a room comparable to a prison cell, ABC News reported.
According to ABC, some teacher and school advocacy groups oppose legislation to regulate the use of restraint, saying it limits their ability to subdue a child who may harm others.
“This deserves not only attention from the state legislature, but this is an issue all across the country, and it deserves attention from Congress as well,” Murphy said.