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Use of 'Scream Rooms' Eliminated at Middletown School

After controversy, school system changes its stance.

The so-called “scream rooms” at  are no more.

School administrators today announced they will no longer use the rooms as a means of handling students with behavioral issues.

School Superintendent Michael Frechette made the announcement in a press conference called Thursday afternoon. “I wanted to make it clear that I have directed all administrative staff in the district to cease, immediately, using time-out rooms ...,” also known as , Frechette said.

"The two rooms that had been previously used for time-out purposes at Farm Hill will no longer serve this purpose," Frechette said. "A new suite on the second floor of the building will be modified for use as a safe area by students with Individual Education Plans or 504 plans if necessary for their safety and the safety of other students and staff."

Sitting nearby Frechette was Apryl Dudley, president of the Farm Hill School’s PTA, whose letter last week to Mayor Dan Drew, Board of Education and parents alerted the community to these room.

She said after the meeting that the elimination of the rooms “is huge.”

“I think it’s going to make students feel a lot better,” said Dudley, who has twin girls at Farm Hill in fourth grade. Asked if she thought the climate at Farm Hill would improve now that the rooms are being eliminated, Dudley said, “I think it’s going to take a lot of time for these students to feel more comfortable.”

Recalling the PTA meeting Thursday night, Dudley began to have difficulty speaking and her voice broke.

"A student actually stood up to talk about how difficult it is," she said. "My children come home and tell me how hard it is to listen to these children scream and kick the door."

After a pause, Dudley continued, "I think these children just need to be loved and they need that support and I think if they’re not getting it anywhere else, they need to be getting it at school."

Once composed, Dudley said she won't be seeking retribution from the school board. "I think we need to move on. We need to repair the children affected by this emotionally. My children alone wake up with nightmares on a nightly basis," she said, because of the screaming.

State Sen. Len Suzio, R-13th District, issued a statement immediately following the press conference

"The community discussion on the so-called 'scream room' is encouraging and I applaud the frank dialogue, but I heard many contradictions during the public testimony. I think we need to separate fact from fiction and get at the real story. The best way to get to the truth, I feel, is through an independent review of what has taken place. That review will restore the public's confidence and move us forward as a community,"  Suzio said.

The administration’s move comes one day after parents at a meeting lambasted district leaders for what they said was poor communication with Farm Hill students over the use of what the district calls “isolation rooms” and what parents and students call “scream rooms.”

About 150 people attended the , as parents faced off against school administrators, demanding answers about why the school uses them, which students are placed in them, and what goes on in them.

Board of Education Chair Gene Nocera said Friday the board wouldn't answer further questions, referring to the lengthy PTA meeting the night before.

Drew said he was not surprised by the backlash and understands parents' frustration. "I feel the same way. I have a child in the Middletown schools myself just a couple of miles from Farm Hill at a different elementary school, so I completely understand and I think they are absolutely right to feel the way they do."

Drew said he has been working with Dudley since last week. "I got her letter late Friday afternoon and she and I spoke every day this week," Drew said.

He said he was pleased with Friday's news.

"This is a very good move in the right direction," Drew said. "The district is going to be more responsive to how they handle crisis situations and there’s a long way to go to make sure everything is operating prop and I think the chairman of the board and members of board are absolutely committed to making sure that this is done right.

Thursday, Farm Hill Principal Pat Girard said the school's two  for students disrupting the learning environment to calm down and regroup.

On Wednesday, Jeanne Milstein, state child advocate, into the use of such rooms (see attached pdf). "From the information I've received so far, my office is deeply concerned," Milstein said.

Tuesday's Board of Education meeting was dominated by parents who said behavioral issues among certain students had overwhelmed the educational process for the majority of others.

This story originated on Middletown Patch.

Ryen January 18, 2012 at 05:54 PM
That is BALONEY, Renee. Do not try to blame NCLB for mainstreaming. This type of discussion does not need a political agenda or famlse information. mainstreaming was around much, MUCH before No Child Left Behind came along. It is inappropriate to generalize and try to point fingers at NCLB (the FIRST program actually with SOME solid success at improving SOME public school problems, by the way) with regard to "mainstreaming"--simply not true.
Ryen January 18, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I worked in Special Education, Heidi. Believe me, there was never any intention for rooms to be used that way. It is CRIMINAL that this was going on in a public school in Connecticut! You are right--"sweating it out in some room" is not the answer, obviously! Thanks.
Ryen January 18, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Well said, Will. And thanks for validating that NCLB has no connection to the idea, plan, policy, and goals of "mainstreaming"--a much older idea that has had SOME success, by the way, when the STAFF is professional and on task and focused on what they should be focused upon. Other good points, too, Will.
Ryen January 18, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Yes, "least restrictive environment" is the true goal, and IDEA is the overall name for the program. However, actual staff and administrators get off on tangents and struggle with implementing these policies professionally and appropriately--the original point of the article (in my mind) and why this is important to discuss. I am frightened by how a public educational institution and community can get so very far off track and that this story is how correction takes place?? That is a SAD picture of things going on in our public schools--fix the problems and get teachers that love students, growth, and learning--not their unions, their paychecks, the benefits, and magic budget increases ad infinitum....
Ryen January 18, 2012 at 08:46 PM
I am all for SOLUTIONS and proper management of children with behavior issues. Lest you think I would side with extreme measures, first you had better look at the poll you can take right here on the Patch website--associated with this issue--it should pop-up in lower right corner when you read this article, and is entitled: " And Read More in Schools How Should Educators Deal With Classroom Behavioral Problems? [Poll] " Check out their results and you will see how "the public" really view this issue!! People who are self-absorbed into the "ivory tower" and idealistic views on education are often out of touch with the way the community actually feels--even other parents!! That is why public education is losing the PR war now, more and more....

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