Group Asks for Better Treatment of Mentally Challenged Students

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RENO, Nev.--A human rights group is calling for a change in policy at the Washoe County School District.

The group says in the past, teachers have locked misbehaving mentally challenged students in 'seclusion rooms' until they quiet down. Such a practice has been illegal in Nevada since 1999, but evidence suggests Washoe County schools used it as recently as 2011. For that reason, a group wants those rooms removed so they're never used again..

a small group of disabled students on Tuesday afternoon asked Washoe school trustees to ban and remove seclusion rooms.

"I was put in seclusion rooms at two schools when I was a student here in the school district," said Brianna Hammon.

"It makes them even more terrified to go to school after they are put into the seclusion rooms," said another student.

Shanna Southam has two boys with autism; she says both were placed in seclusion rooms multiple times in 2009.

"The teachers I don't think are trained properly. I think that the closets are there so they just figure they will utilize that space," said Southam.

"When I look at our industry, and how we have handled special ed services, we are still learning and we have a ways to go to improving those services," said Washoe Schools Superintendent Pedro Martinez.

The district has removed some of the rooms, but Martinez agrees there is still more work to be done.

"I am glad that this report came to us because now we can set a policy where we can send a clear message, that these practices will never be used again," said Martinez.

Evidence shows these rooms were used only in extreme circumstances, when children were throwing school supplies, becoming violent and cussing at teachers. Still, Washoe County School Trustees have asked for a full report on the practice and plan to discuss it at an upcoming meeting.