MARQUETTE - The Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education gave the go-ahead Monday night to construct a new seclusion room inside Bothwell Middle School, which is used to help calm down violent or extremely aggressive students.
The board approved a $20,110 bid from Premeau Construction to construct the room, which would be located on the first floor.
"It's an area that's misunderstood, I think by a lot of the public, what those seclusion rooms are," said Superintendent Bill Saunders. "We have some students, for their own safety, for their own welfare, sometimes require the fact that we use the seclusion room."
The seclusion room inside Sandy Knoll Elementary School. It’s a room that’s used to help deescalate a violent situation. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
The padding inside the seclusion room at Sandy Knoll is pictured. The thick padding lines the floors and walls, helping to keep a violent student safe from harm. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
The rooms are strictly regulated at both the state and the federal level.
Currently, the district has one seclusion room at Sandy Knoll Elementary School.
The newly approved seclusion room would be built on the first floor of the middle school.
In an interview prior to Monday's board meeting, MAPS Special Education Supervisor Sandra Barnes said the room is used to help deescalate a student who continues to be aggressive and violent after all other deescalation techniques used by teachers and aides fail.
"It's only used as a last resort," Barnes said, adding students are only inside for a matter of minutes.
"At Sandy Knoll, 5 to 10 minutes would be a bunch to leave those kids in there."
Barnes said the room acts as a final option and is used rarely during the school year.
"This year, maybe we've used it twice," Barnes said.
The room is generally only used by students who are moderately or severely multiply impaired, Barnes said, because those are the kids that would present the greatest risk.
Each time a student is placed in a seclusion room, a written report must be filed and parents of the child are immediately notified.
The full report states what led to the violent episode, what techniques staff used to attempt to deescalate the situation before using the seclusion room, what the student did while in the seclusion room and how long the student was in there. Any time a student is in the room, a staff member monitors that student from the doorway.
Any time a student becomes too violent for staff to handle, or exhibits suicidal behavior, fire or EMS personnel are called in to help.
Barnes said the room is used to keep the student and those around the student safe from harm.
"Most often than not, it is our aides and our teachers that end up getting hurt," Barnes said. "They end up getting kicked, bit, punched more than the student. Most of the time the students are aggressive outwards. We have very few that have self-injurious behavior."
Sandy Knoll's seclusion room is small in size, with thick, gray padding on the walls and door, as well as a pastel-colored padding on the floor. A small mirror hangs off the ceiling so staff can see into every corner of the room while a student is inside. The room also has its own fire supression system.
Some students, Barnes said, benefit from the room, asking to use it when they feel they need a break from the regular classroom setting.
"We have one young man who is able to articulate to us, 'I think something is going on, can I just go and sit,' just to collect himself," Barnes said. "And that, for us, is a huge step when those kids can get there because that's what we want them to be able to do, is to be able to self-articulate when something is not going right, rather than to devolve into an episode that would lead to some kind of aggression or behavior where the child or the aides get hurt."
In that case, Barnes said the student's use of the seclusion room is noted in the student's school-to-home journal, which is used as a way to keep parents of children with special needs informed as to the daily activities of their kids.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.