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Is It Okay For Schools to Use 'Calm Down' Rooms?

Posted by on Dec. 11, 2013 at 10:22 AM
  • 38 Replies

5-Year-Old Hospitalized After Disciplined in School 'Calm Down' Room

by Lisa Fogarty

A 5-year-old boy was recently taken to the hospital after suffering an anxiety attack because he was placed in a small padded room that his NYC charter school used as a "calm down" room. He and another little boy were reportedly sent there often for their behavior and were then expected to get a grip over their emotions while sitting in a room that resembled a walk-in closet and that contained just a single light on the ceiling, a padded mat, and a partially covered window that allowed teachers to look in but prevented students from looking out.

Basically, this sounds like a padded cell. A jail created for very young children who have yet to even understand their own emotions.

In the school's defense, New York State law allows for students to be placed in a time-out room where they can be seen and heard and an adult does not have to be present in the room. The charter school that is coming under attack for this room says it is just one part of the behavior plan they use and that children are only sent there if staff suspect they are endangering themselves. 

I feel better knowing the room is not being used as a solution to the problem, but placing kindergartners or first graders in solitary confinement for 15 to 20 minutes is way too long. There are other, far less frightening ways to help them calm down -- ways that mimic what actual adults do to try and get a grip on their emotions.

Have a staff member take a long walk with the child. Give him or her a few minutes of supervised outside time in a secure and protected courtyard. Teach the child simple breathing techniques he can use while trying to calm down. These are all examples of helpful and healthy ways children can be taught to get a grip on their emotions.

Being placed in a small room and told to calm down wouldn't work for me, and I wouldn't expect it to work for my child, either. 

Do you think it's okay for a school to use a small padded room as a "calm down" space?

by on Dec. 11, 2013 at 10:22 AM
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Replies (1-10):
by on Dec. 11, 2013 at 10:28 AM
1 mom liked this

A side room would be fine imho. But not as they described....I'd want it a bit bigger with a window to the outside. Don't need a window to the classroom, teacher can just check every few minutes but an outside window definitely.

by Mikki on Dec. 11, 2013 at 10:52 AM

I don't have an issue with a room but I wouldn't have it the way they do.

family in the van   Mom of four

by on Dec. 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM
My kids junior high had one when I went there. Its used for SN kids.

I think they are fine personally.
by Silver Member on Dec. 11, 2013 at 10:56 AM
No these "calm down" techniques used by a lot of schools are nothing more than getting the kids out of the teacher's way. They don't teach the child to calm down they terrify the child and some "techniques" have led to the death of children. It's terrible!
by on Dec. 11, 2013 at 10:57 AM

I think a sterilized room is not exactly the way to go - we already know that our psyche does not respond well to so much starkness. I would prefer a quiet space with perhaps a window or artwork or positive posters on the walls, at least. Something CALMING, not something terrifyingly claustrophobic or void.

I don't have a problem with a "calm down" room in general, though. Or really even a major issue with this one. The fact that the kid had a bad experience is just a one-time example and broad conclusions about the discipline tactic cannot be made. Also, calling it a padded cell is rather sensationalizing the issue. It's not like the child is restrained in handcuffs and denied his Miranda rights.

by Member on Dec. 11, 2013 at 11:05 AM
They shouldn't have used a padded room for some kids it can trigger them. Where I work we have a space room and the kids have to think about their actions and they have to process with a staff.The whole time there is a staff there and they proces with the staff and talk about what could have been done differently. We do this with teenage girls so I know it is possible to do with small children
by Member on Dec. 11, 2013 at 11:08 AM
No. When you give the school the power to lock a kid up it will be abused. It's been proven that calm down rooms don't work. There are other better solutions.
by on Dec. 11, 2013 at 11:16 AM
How sad! Not a room as they described.....that's scary!
by Member on Dec. 11, 2013 at 11:35 AM

I do not think it is okay. I have a child with an IEP. I would not like her going in a room like this . I do think she should not be allowed in the classroom until she calms down but not in a room like this.

by Bronze Member on Dec. 11, 2013 at 11:39 AM
I have no issue with them. It gets the kid away from the rest of the class that are behaving. Some kids need it.
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