Middletown
8:56 am
Fri January 13, 2012

School Officials Address Concerns Over So-Called "Scream Rooms"

Parents packed into an elementary school gymnasium in Middletown last night to hear from local education officials, and to voice their concerns over so-called “scream rooms.” Teachers at the school use a time-out room to discipline disruptive students.

Problems at Farm Hill Elementary School surfaced last week. PTA president and parent Apryl Dudley wrote a letter to city and school officials saying parents were upset as their children described misbehaving students being isolated in a so-called “scream room”. The small room has concrete walls and is located near a hallway of the school. She said children hear students kicking, screaming uncontrollably and hitting their heads against walls as staff members stand outside holding the door shut.

At last night’s PTA meeting, Middletown superintendent Michael Frechette said certain special education students exhibit difficult behaviors that result in their being sent to a time-out room.  

"Some students have banged their heads in the time-out rooms. They have been restrained by staff. There’s been issues of kids being taken out on stretchers, ambulances, etc.   There have been nine calls to the police. Six have been for medical issues and three were for student behavior."

Seclusion and restraint are permitted practices under Connecticut law for students with Individualized Education Programs or IEPs. Superintendent Freschetts says the room is rarely used for students without an IEP. He told parents that the problems at Farm Hill narrow down to three areas: School climate, student management and lack of communication.

But PTA president Dudley said communication problems reach beyond the school building.

"I was instructed by Board of Ed members that I would be hearing directly from Dr. Freschette. We are going on seven days and I have not received one single e-mail or contact."

School officials say there will be changes. A lock on the time out room door will be removed today, and it will eventually be moved to a different location in the school.  Farm Hill will also increase staff and teacher training.  

Meanwhile, two state agencies say they’ll investigate.