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State's Child Advocate, School Admin, Parents Weigh in on 'Scream Rooms'

Known as 'time-out' rooms, school administrators say the intent of these rooms at Farm Hill School is to allow children experiencing issues a chance to 'de-escalate.'

UPDATE: 4:40 p.m.

Middletown Superintendent of Schools Michael Frechette says there is a special procedure for “time-out” rooms used by staff to help children experiencing behavioral issues.

According to Laurie Slade, Supervisor of Pupil Services & Special Education for Middletown Public Schools, time-out rooms are available to any student, not just those identified as special needs.

“In order for us to utilize time-out rooms, we go through a series of other strategies, ranging from redirection, to offering the opportunity to go for a walk, speaking to the school counselor, speaking to a social worker.”

They are not padded rooms, Slade confirmed.

“One is a converted kitchenette, the other is a room that was used for storage, but it has a window and a door,” she explained. Most of the schools in the district, Slade said, have a place where “a student can de-escalate.”

Characterizing these time-out rooms as barbaric is “inaccurate,” she said.

“If a student is going to that room and are taking a few minutes or a handful of minutes to not be in such a stimulating environment,” Slade said, the intent is a positive one — one in which the child initiates the request for a place to calm down or “take a little break.”

If a child is asked to go to a time-out room, Slade explains, “there are forms that have to be filled out and if the child needs ‘hands-on’ intervention, he or she is checked out by the nurse.”

UPDATE: 4:10 p.m.

Jeanne Milstein, state child advocate, has called for an investigation into so-called "scream rooms" at in Middletown.

"From the information I've received so far, my office is deeply concerned," Milstein said. An investigation, Milstein explained, could involve record retrieval, visits to the school and interviewing people, and before doing so, "it's hard to know if [time-out rooms] even exist."

Her office oversees the state Department of Children and Families.

Milstein oversees the protection and care of Connecticut’s most vulnerable and youngest citizens and advocates for their well-being.

Earlier today, state Sen. Len Suzio, R-13, contacted Middletown School Superintendent Michael Frechette. 

"He tells me the issues that have been raised are legitimate and that the school district intends to confront them head-on and immediately," Suzio said. "I was pleased to hear that the district intends to be proactive and inclusive in addressing the situation. 

"I have reviewed the district's plan of action. The plan has substance and it brings in considerable resources. I will attend Thursday night's PTA meeting to listen to parents and hear their concerns and questions. I want to assure the public that I will stay on this issue until it is resolved."

The Farm Hill PTA meets Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Original version:

On the heels of last night's Board of Education meeting which brought contentious 'scream rooms' to light, Michael Frechette offered support to the Farm Hill School administration and staff.

Hoping to quell the controversy surrounding so-called , the superintendent of schools today released a detailed support plan to assist teachers and staff with student behavioral issues.

The public session at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting was dominated by Farm Hill parents who say behavioral issues among certain students have overwhelmed the educational process for the majority of students.

In a memo posted on the school district website (see attached pdf) and directed to principal Pat Girard, Michael Frechette details additional support services as well as "action steps" to deal specifically with at-risk students, inappropriate language and physical aggression.

Check back with Middletown Patch for more details.

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Cathy Branch Stebbins January 12, 2012 at 01:53 PM
A room like this is dangerous in poorly trained hands, and from my experience, the teachers are in desperate need of excellent training and education in positive behavior management techniques. Are they still using public shaming on a daily basis as a technique? Do students still line up "last in line for lunch" for an offense? Do children still have their names put on the chalkboard because they forgot their homework or fogot to put their chair on their desk at the end of the day? Or how about sitting in the corner of a classroom, day after day, until it is the end of the school year, and still the child's behavior has not changed? Geez, and none of that is working? So who is failing whom? Public shaming is not a positive behavior management technique and they are not gender specific techniques. I hope that the adults in charge learn that these negative techniques only reinforces fear or contempt, only makes students into future bullies or drop-outs, and only scares the hell out of the kids who are not having behavior problems.
carlo January 15, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Who is failing whom? The parents are failing. Quit passing the buck. Proper behavior is taught and reinforced in the home. Teachers should not have to raise your kids.

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