21 Aug 2014
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Parent: State Ed Dept Seclusion Rooms Findings Encouraging

After faulting Farm Hill School administrators for improperly secluding Middletown elementary children, the state Department of Education has issued recommendations and mandatory changes for the entire public school district.

Parent: State Ed Dept Seclusion Rooms Findings Encouraging


Editor's Note: For all the stories on Farm Hill seclusion rooms, see here.

The findings of a report faulting administrators for their use of so-called “scream” or seclusion rooms for student behavior intervention has given one parent hope that her longstanding concerns have begun to be addressed.

On Monday, the state issued its investigation report, dated July 2, to the acting superintendent of Middletown Public Schools regarding the use of seclusion at Farm Hill.

In a statement announcing the education department findings, seized the opportunity to say the had “decisively concluded that there was no evidence of abuse or neglect of students, and dismissed the concerns the department had investigated without any findings or recommendations.”

He’s referring to the March 30 DCF letter addressed to former Farm Hill School Principal Pat Girard that the investigation into the abuse or neglect of a child or children had not been “substantiated.”

, mother of Caleb, a high-functioning autistic 12-year-old, credits the many new members of the city’s board of education with addressing complaints head-on.

“I’m hoping with the new Board of Education that we’re heading in the right direction toward policy changes to keep all our children safe in town,” Majewski said. Her son attended and Keigwin Middle schools until April.

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After Majewski made a formal complaint April 11 to the state of Connecticut Board of Education, she received a response June 10, with findings, some recommended and others mandatory, that parallel its Farm Hill conclusions.

“We feel vindicated as a family because we have been trying to address this for more than a year,” said Majewski, whose son is now at Benhaven in Wallingford, which serves children, adolescents, and adults with autism and pervasive developmental disabilities.

“Personally, my son is in a very good school and I thank the new Board of Education for making that happen. There are no restraints, no seclusion policy and he’s thriving.”

The state board of education report identified multiple areas of noncompliance with Connecticut statutes and regulations on the reporting and use of seclusion. It mandated corrective actions to begin immediately.

Significant findings are:

  • Seclusion was not used appropriately as an emergency intervention, as required;
  • Seclusion was used as a behavior intervention, though it was not a part of some children’s Individualized Education Program;
  • Required parental notification of use of seclusion did not always take place; and
  • Monitoring and internal reporting on use of seclusion lacked clear protocols; and staff were not sufficiently trained on seclusion policies.

Suggestions include:

  • Convene Planning and Placement Team meetings for each Middletown Public School student whom seclusion is included in their IEP;
  • Farm Hill will report to the Department of Education on each incidence of seclusion between now and Dec. 31 to assess legal/policy compliance;
  • District-wide and school-specific policies and procedures concerning seclusion will be developed and updated;
  • Middletown Public Schools will hold district-wide professional development on restraint and seclusion.

Larson said district-wide actions already established include:

  • Incident reports “have been revised to clearly identify that a written report is sent home”
  • By Oct. 1, a planning and placement team meeting will be held for any student with an IEP that includes seclusion
  • Both IEPs and parental notification will be sent to the state education department within five days
  • Professional development and training will be provided to any staff involved in seclusion areas

, was passed unanimously by the General Assembly and signed by the governor, requires schools to document and the department of education to collect data related to each incident where seclusion or physical restraint is used.

Even with all these positive changes, Majewski says she’s waiting for a couple things. “I still want the administrators to apologize for what we’ve been through. I want the findings, both recommended and mandatory, to be in place in the fall. I can’t be sure Caleb’s friends [from Keigwin] won’t be safe.”

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