Seclusion rooms expose Arizona's lack of regulations

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by Sybil Hoffman

azfamily.com

Posted on October 18, 2012 at 10:30 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 22 at 8:57 AM

GLENDALE, Ariz -- Open air room or padded cell? The Deer Valley School District is facing a lawsuit after staff reportedly placed a student inside the room on numerous occasions.

The lawsuit is exposing another issue. Arizona is among few states choosing not to regulate this approach to disciplining children.

Laid out in black and white, you'll see the construction plans for what's known as an open air room.

"So there is no windows. No. No window," Leslie Noyes noticed.

Open air rooms can and do exist in schools across Arizona for the purpose of secluding children who get out of control. But Leslie and Eric Noyes say these rooms are more like cells.

Leslie Noyes described what she saw while video taping the room with her cell phone.

"The walls were padded, the door was padded, there was a little peep hole like in your door that you can't really see through. I saw my son laying there on the floor unresponsive," she said.

As 3TV first reported last month, the Noyes have filed a lawsuit against the Deer Valley Unified School District. They claim their son, then seven years old, was placed inside this padded room more than a dozen times at Desert Sage Elementary School.

"I think it's happening a lot more than we could probably imagine. The schools aren't reporting to the district, the district's not reporting to the Department of Education, so nobody knows. There should be statistics that you can go up and look up and see what's going on, how many kids are restrained, how may kids are secluded, if they are special needs, if they're not special needs," Eric Noyes stated.

The Arizona Department of Education confirms no statistics are kept regarding use of Open Air Rooms because by law, it's not required.

"The intent is to make sure we're not locking kids away unsupervised that we aren't holding children in restraints inappropriately," State Representative Eric Meyer said.

Arizona's answer? Rather than adopt legislation, lawmakers created a task force when the issue arose during the 2008 session. Basically it's a list of recommendations for schools on how to handle children who misbehave.

"No school district must adopt it and there will be no penalties because it's up to the school districts to enforce it themselves," said Hope Kirsch, founding partner of Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch Law Firm.

Representative Meyer said creating a task force was the easy way out.

"People want to get re-elected, if you create a task force it separates them from some degrees from decisions," stated Meyer.

According to Kirsch, most other states take a different approach.

"Arizona is one of six states that has absolutely no legislation, no rules, laws, codes, anything to enforce these restraint and seclusion," said Kirsch.

"Does Arizona really think they know something that 44 other states don't know," asked Leslie Noyes.

Whether or not lawmakers revisit open air rooms remains to be seen. 

"The ultimate goal is to get these rooms removed. I mean no child should have to go through that and put through that," said Leslie Noyes.   

To review the Task Force formed in 2008 by the Arizona Legislature, visit
www.azleg.gov and www.azed.gov.

To reach Hope Kirsch visit hope@kgklaw.com or call (480) 585-0600. Kirsch-Goodwin-Kirsch is located at 8900 E Pinnacle Peak Road, Suite 250 in Scottsdale.


 

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