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School official says seclusion rooms are legal

WILMINGTON (AP) — The use of seclusion rooms to deal with aggressive students is legal, a New Hanover County Schools’ official says.

The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights investigated the school district’s use of seclusion rooms earlier this year. The review found no violation of North Carolina law dealing with ways to handle aggressive students, the StarNews of Wilmington reported.

The investigation started after a complaint in January by the parents of a 5-year-old special education student. The parents said the student was being placed in a seclusion room and was forced to stay inside. The complaint alleged the district used the seclusion rooms only for students with disabilities.

The school district provided federal investigators with detailed reports on all use of seclusion rooms from last fall and January of this year, said Rick Holliday, assistant superintendent for support services. The agency also interviewed district staff connected to the complaint involving the 5-year-old student and to the use of seclusion as a whole, he said.

The school district will continue using its seclusion policy, Holliday said. The policy allows the use of seclusion to protect students and teachers when a student’s “behavior poses a threat of imminent physical harm to self or others.”

Seclusion also can be used as part of the individual education plan for special needs students.

State law limits the use of seclusion to no more than 10 minutes at a time and they must be monitored by a teacher.

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