KOMO News and Q13 Fox are reporting that schools in Washington are using padded cells to isolate special needs children who misbehave. Responding to public outrage, the Longview School District just announced it will discontinue the practice. The Burlington School District defends use of this practice.

Washington state administrative rules explicitly permit schools to isolate children in padded cells, which have holes poked in the top for ventilation. Four WACs (administrative rules) define “aversive interventions” and the conditions for their use by school officials. WAC 392-172A-03130 subsection 3 describes conditions for “binding or otherwise attaching the student’s limbs together or by binding or otherwise attaching any part of a student’s body to an object.”

According to TASH, a national grass-roots organization for disabled children:

“Nursing homes declared these practices outdated and unsafe in the 1980s, and medical and psychiatric care facilities followed suit over the past two decades. They recognized there were no benefits to restraint and seclusion, and no amount of medical training and expertise was adequate to alleviate the risks to both patients and staff. There is no therapeutic benefit for restraint and seclusion. So why are school administrators continuing to defend such practices?”

Padded cells, binding together the legs of children, and tying children to objects is officially permitted in Washington’s schools.

Repealing these shameful WACs could be the first accomplishment of the new legislature.


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]