It’s time to ban seclusion in New Jersey schools

New Jersey is considering new legislation after a story broke that shines a light on the practice of seclusion in New Jersey schools. The proposed legislation is focused on reporting and data. New Jersey, it is not time to track the abuse. It is time to end it. Seclusion is a misguided and cruel crisis management approach that needs to be ended in New Jersey and across the nation. Seclusion leads to significant trauma in students, teachers, and staff. There are far better ways to support children and maintain safe classrooms. What follows is a letter and form for New Jersey residents to send comments to lawmakers to demand change.

The article Inside the quiet rooms was published in June 2022

Dear Representative,

Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving. In June, an investigation by the NJ Advance Media led to the publication of an article, “Inside the quiet rooms.” The article stated that at least 1,150 New Jersey students had been forced into padded seclusion rooms. These children were most often very young children with disabilities, Black and brown students, and students with a trauma history. Why were children forced into these confinement cells? Most often, it was for alleged misbehavior in class.

In New Jersey, the laws that govern restraint and seclusion state that restraint and seclusion should only be used “in an emergency in which the student is exhibiting behavior that places the student or others in immediate physical danger.” The Federal Guidance from the United States Department of Education says, “restraint or seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others, and restraint and seclusion should be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff.” Imminent, serious, physical harm has the same meaning as serious bodily injury as used in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It means bodily injury which involves:

i) A substantial risk of death;
ii) Extreme physical pain;
iii) Protracted and obvious disfigurement; or
iv) Protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.

The NJ Advance Media article found that New Jersey children were most often secluded for alleged misbehavior. Many schools across the state are violating not only Federal Guidance but current New Jersey law. The article found that seclusion rooms or closets have been used in New Jersey schools for years with little or no oversight by the state. Several other states have banned the use of seclusion, and there is currently proposed federal legislation that would prohibit the use of seclusion in all public schools across the country.

A bill in the New Jersey State Legislature has been proposed that would require parental notification and data reporting around the use of seclusion. While this is a good step, it is not enough.

The use of seclusion can lead to significant trauma and injuries to students, teachers, and staff. While some will lead you to believe that seclusion is necessary to keep students safe, this is simply not true. While the rooms are often used under the misguided assumption that they help kids calm, nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing is calming about a seclusion room. Kids are forced into these rooms while the door is held shut. It’s terrifying. Initially, kids scream and bang on the walls to get out. In time reaching a sense of hopelessness, their brains begin to shut down, a protective state. Some kids even go into dissociative states. It is time to ban the use of seclusion in New Jersey schools.

Thank you for your consideration. I hope you will support the legislation to ban the use of seclusion in schools across the state.

Tell your New Jersey officials to ban seclusion

Thank you for taking the time to complete the form. This is how change is made!

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