New Hanover County Board of Education hears update on seclusion room data

Tuesday night, the board heard an update on a controversial topic that’s been discussed for months: the use of seclusion rooms in schools
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 10:32 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It was standing room only at the New Hanover County Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night as concerned members of the community that have been coming for months showed up to voice their concerns about the use of seclusion rooms in schools.

Board members heard an update from the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Julie Varnam, and though she couldn’t provide any numbers, seclusion rooms are included in plans for new schools being built in the district.

School Board member Judy Justice says, the data she received is disturbing.

“They sent us the information over; I wish I could release it to the public,” Justice said. “There’s a list an inch thick. Each page covered probably anywhere from 50 to 100 names over three years.”

Seclusion rooms are confined areas in schools where children who are showing severe behavioral issues are placed.

There are 25 seclusion rooms throughout New Hanover County Schools.

In a recent study by school staff, most of those secluded were male, and African American.

“It does not change behavior for the better; very often it changes behavior for the worse,” said President of the New Hanover County Special Education PTA Denise Yannone.

Members from Yannone’s organization, a group that advocates for students with disabilities, say the rooms need to go away once and for all.

“We’d like to see the beginning of the end now,” Yannone said. “To start at this point, and hopefully by the end of the 2022-2023 school year, we have significantly ended seclusion in New Hanover County.”

Board members tonight agreed to come up with a plan that includes training staff to work with students identified as troubled, so there’s no need for them to be secluded.

“We can do it,” Justice said. “We gotta have the will to do it, because there’s definitely the techniques out there. As Ms. Varnam said, there’s school districts in this state, I know there’s most school districts in this state. I know most of them across the country don’t use them. We need to get rid of them.”

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