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.