Bellevue parents outraged over isolation rooms, other restraints in schools

BELLEVUE -- In recent months, the use of isolation rooms in schools has outraged a lot of parents.

The rooms are used for special needs students who act out.

The Washington Legislature is requiring school districts to come up with policies on how to use restraints and isolation techniques. So the Bellevue School Board came up with a plan, but parents there say they need to go back to the drawing board.

“It’s going to kill somebody,” said parent Cathy McVay to the school board. “It’s going to hurt somebody. The long-term effects on these kids, it’s traumatizing.”

Parents are concerned about the vague language around the new policy, which includes not only the use of isolation rooms, but restraint techniques, including handcuffs, Tasers and pepper spray.

“We’re concerned about the safety and well-being of our precious children,” said parent Jennifer Carls.


According to the state, isolation and restraints should be used only if there is a clear and present danger to the child or other students, but the Bellevue plan states they can be used if there is unpredicted, spontaneous behavior.

One mother told the school board, “Putting in language like this will only give permission to some staff members to just do what’s convenient and not right.”

School board members explained the Bellevue plan is part of the state’s requirement.

“There was a policy missing and we needed to have something to bound these issues,” said Christine Chew, a school board member. “I know the comments we’ve heard tonight will affect what we’re doing.”

The comments from parents did, ultimately, have an effect.

The school board decided not to vote on the plan. Instead, they tabled it, and plan on discussing it some more over the summer before coming to a decision next fall.