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School Board discusses controversial ‘time out’ policy: State requires plan to be in place

Board of Education members got assurances Monday night from Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Rylott, that a “first reading” of a policy required by the New York State Education Department on use of a “time out room” and physical restraints, would not be abused by the district.

The first reading is a presentation of the proposal and will be up for a Board vote in April.

A padded room, 8-feet by 15-feet, meant to calm aggressive behavior by students, was used in the district in October 2003. From press accounts at the time, parents voiced outrage that its implementation resulted in greater volatility and, some said, long-lasting negative effects on their children.

Ms. Rylott said she wanted the Board and community to know there is no specific room. Spaces used would depend on need and would be roomy and carefully monitored to ensure the desired calming effect is realized, and not be a punishment for “bad actions.”

Another point she stressed is that the Committee on Special Education includes the parent, or parents, of a student needing an individual educational plan to achieve their maximum potential. Parents would have a strong voice in any behavior modification plan that might be implemented.

The aim of the policy is to calm what could become a volatile situation. Sometimes, Ms. Rylott said, all a student needs is a quiet space to calm them.

At Shelter Island School that place has long existed in the office of School Nurse Mary Kanarvogel. Students who show up there often are not ill, but Ms. Kanarvogel is quick to identify that sometimes a student who arrives with a mild headache or stomach ache simply is upset by something that may have occurred in a classroom or at home. A little “calm-down time,” and students are soon back to the classroom.

But in this day of violence on school campuses, the state policy aims to avoid escalating feelings of anger or upset.

Ms. Rylott and School Psychologist Danielle Spears have worked to develop a model for ways to approach a student who is upset and provide training for teachers in how to recognize the need and implement steps to calmly and effectively ease the situation.

According to the policy draft, a “time out room” is “an area for a student to safely de-escalate, regain control and prepare to meet expectations to return to program.”

The full policy draft is available from the Board of Education website. To access the policy, hit the tab for the Board of Education and under that is a tab for meeting agendas. The agenda for the March 13 meeting contains the full text of the proposed policy.