Seclusion Rooms Shed Light on Discipline in WCSD Schools

RENO, Nev. -- The Washoe County School Board is putting unanswered questions and concerns over illegal seclusion rooms to rest. Now, the board IS discussing steps that will be taken to ensure the safety of your kids while they're in school.

It came as a shock for many parents when the practice of using seclusion rooms surfaced in June.

"No one ever found out and I was afraid to tell people," Christopher Ripke, president of People First, a non-profit organization for people with disabilities, said.

Evidence shows the rooms were used only in extreme cases when children were misbehaving and becoming violent. It's a practice that has been illegal since 1999, but students like Ripke have come forward, claiming he was locked in what he calls, a 'screaming room,' for about 17 minutes.

"I felt threatened and I felt like no one cared about me," he said. "I was scared, it was like I didn't want to go to school the next day."

The members of People First are asking the board to remove these rooms, but now the concern lies on how discipline is handled at the schools.

"We'll have multiple stakeholders to make sure that we also look at our practices," Superintendent Pedro Martinez said.

Martinez says 15 schools in the district were designed with the rooms; 13 of those currently have their doors removed, and the other two have been re-purposed into a storage closet and a library.

"These practices are just not allowed period. It's just that simple and making sure that these rooms are being used for," Martinez said. "We're not going to allow it and we want parents to let us know, so there's an incident we want to hear about it and we will make sure that we enforce it."

Student Support Services is putting together an advisory board to walk through all of the schools to ensure they are abiding the law. They're asked to provide pictures and evidence that these rooms are no longer in use.

"We want every child to be safe within our schools," Barbara Clark, president of the WCSD Board of Trustees, says.

President Clark says the trustees will give the advisory board six to eight weeks to come up with a full report on their findings after the school walk-throughs.

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