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MO school using padded rooms to subdue special-needs children

By Adam Allington, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – School administrators at the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County are being accused of inhumane treatment for putting students into padded rooms.

The so-called "time out rooms" are small with padded walls. They are used for students prone to explosive outbursts because of special-needs conditions such as autism.

Byron Koster of Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services said such rooms are not an acceptable method of dealing with special-needs children:

"First of all, those rooms shouldn't be used at all. There are appropriate techniques and methods in which to assess a child with a disability and asses their behaviors and appropriate ways of dealing with those behaviors. Using a room is not the appropriate way."

Renee Shuster is the Superintendent at Francis Howell. She said the time out rooms are part of a contingency plan to deal with outbursts:

"If a student becomes explosive and becomes a danger to him- or her self, or other students or staff, then according to the plan the time out room is used to allow the student an opportunity to calm down."

She said parents are always asked to approve a behavior plan that may involve the time out rooms. Several parents, however, have come forward to appose the practice, one who claims her child sustained bruises as a result of being put in the small, closed-sized room.

Administrators say the Missouri Department of Social Services has found that the school district's practices are appropriate, but the incident is being investigated by Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services.