A year and a half after a “scream” room investigation at Farm Hill Elementary School in Middletown, the Superintendent of Schools said the staff has been completely retrained, and school policies reevaluated.
Dr. Patricia Charles said educators at Farm Hill have been working with the State Department of Education to learn how to deescalate a child’s behavior before resorting to seclusion, a process in which children are placed in empty rooms and monitored by an adult until the child calms down.
“We do still have the rooms at Farm Hill School,” said Dr. Charles, who was hired after the allegations first came to light.
In 2012, Farm Hill School parents complained of children coming home and describing screaming students being dragged into seclusion rooms in the school. Investigations by the State Department of Education, Department of Children and Families, Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, and Office of the Child Advocate concluded that staff were not notifying parents regularly when a child was placed in the room.
The investigation found huge holes in state-mandated documentation of the use of the rooms. The investigations also revealed that of the 15 children placed in seclusion that school year, only four had individualized educational programs in which parents were aware of the use of that technique.
A federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is ongoing.
“We wanted to make sure we were doing it correctly, the State wanted to make sure we were doing it correctly, and so together, through their guidance, we've been able to put together a good plan so we don't end up with those same issues again,” Dr. Charles said.