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Columbia Board of Education approves revised seclusion, isolation and restraint policy



The Columbia Board of Education considered items including a final reading of a revised policy on seclusion, isolation and restraint of students on Monday.

The board voted unanimously to approve a revised plan of the policy.

The board has been discussing the policy for several months after students and parents voiced frustration about seclusion rooms and the way administrators were handling students sent to those rooms.

District spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the administration met with the Columbia Special Education PTA and Missouri Disability Empowerment, two groups which had some concerns about some of the proposed changes from the Missouri School Boards' Association.

Robyn Schelp is president of Missouri Disability Empowerment, and has been a part of the discussions about the district's policy.

She said working with the board was much easier than she expected.

"Everything went great. It was a good conversation," she said. "Pretty much agreed on everything except just some minor details, and that's OK. We're not going to always agree on every little detail."

The latest revision to the policy includes a change in the number of days the district has to provide a written summary of an emergency situation to guardians from five to 10.

Those reports should include events that led up to the incident, the extent of any injury to the student and a plan to prevent the need for future use of seclusion, isolation or restraint.

Schelp said notifying parents can make them a part of the conversation.

"First it's a way that they can check that it was done properly. And secondly, if you know what led up to it you might be able to prevent it from happening again."

Changes from the first reading of the policy include restoring annual training requirements and removing the word "unattended" from the suggested change in the definition of seclusion.

"By changing it and requiring that a student be unattended to be seclusion, then it meant that if a child was attended it wasn't seclusion anymore. So the child could be locked in a room and attended, and it would only be time out," Schelp said.

She said including the word "unattended" would have weakened the definition of seclusion.

She said the group wanted staff to be trained each year because restraining students can be a dangerous situation.

"I think it was just kind of an oversight that that language was put into it in the first place," she said.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia Public Schools
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Sydney Olsen

Sydney Olsen reports in the evenings during the week and on the weekend.


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