Disciplinary measures need closer examination
Dealing with and disciplining “problem” children has always been a difficult issue for schools. How do you do it in a humane and reasonable way that maintains order in the school but minimizes harm to the child?
These days there seems to be a consensus that using physical punishment is the wrong approach so that has left schools searching for alternatives. Some schools have come up with the use of “isolation rooms” where some children are closed up in rooms and separated from others.
This practice is supposed to allow the child to calm down and perhaps to contemplate their misbehavior. It is also designed to ensure that other children are not harmed or upset by the misbehaving child.
It is something like a higher level of “time out” or sending a child to their room, discipline methods that have become popular with some parents. But some other parents dislike the practice and have compared it with locking a child in a closet.
A proposed law (HB 2476) is bringing attention to the practice in the Arizona Legislature. It would require prior written approval from parents to use the method on their child. The sponsor of the measure says her goal is to eventually eliminate the isolation practice entirely.
We can understand the concern about this practice. In our view, it should be used only as a last resort to ensure the safety of the children and maintain order in the classrooms. Some children may not be bothered by this method, but others might be terrified by being isolated. The individual nature of the child needs to be considered by school officials.
Nevertheless, the proposed law is lacking because it does not deal with the issue of what to do if parents refuse to allow isolation. What are school officials to do if the child is a threat to themselves or others? Can the parents be required to come to the school and get their child? Will there be provision for long-term counseling or treatment of their misbehavior? What is the proper way to use this disciplinary method?
Before passage, this proposed law needs to address many more issues than parental involvement. At the same time, it would be a good idea to include a requirement for a study of the practice and how it affects children, whether permission is given or not by parents.
For now, lawmakers should reject this proposed law.