“Room Clears” Coming Soon to a School Near You?


by James A. Bacon

Virginia schools soon could have a new set of regulations governing the use of seclusion and restraint of students. The regs are awaiting approval by Governor Ralph Northam, an official with Virginia’s department of special education and student services told lawmakers Wednesday, as reported by VPM news.

The state needs standards for the use of these disciplinary methods, elaborated retiring Del. Richard “Dickie” Bell, R-Staunton, because there are no standards now. Bell, a retired high school special education teacher, championed the legislation requiring the Virginia Board of Education to restrict methods deemed “unsafe.” The board voted in July to ban the use of prone, or face-down, restraint in July.

No one wants teachers and staff using disciplinary methods that are unnecessarily harsh or potentially harmful — even to quell students acting violently. However, someone needs to think through the implications of these regulations in a school environment were emotionally unstable children are being mainstreamed. Virginia’s dominant media outlets don’t talk about this issue. Thankfully, we have Bacon’s Rebellion, and Bacon’s Rebellion has the Internet.

For a peak at the likely unintended consequences, look to Oregon…

Fifty-six percent of surveyed teachers and parents in the state have reported a “room clear” in their child’s classroom over the past year. What’s a room clear? It’s when a student gets out of control, threatening violence and/or trashing the classroom and, rather than confront the child physically, teachers clear the classroom of the other students until the rampaging student calms down.

Writes Max Eden in Quilette:

The emergence of room clears is a product of several fashionable education-policy trends designed to protect the rights of troubled students, often with little regard for the rights of their classmates. These include the provisions contained in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which mandates that special-education students be subject to the “least restrictive environment” possible. When it comes to students who are hard of hearing, dyslexic or developmentally delayed, this policy likely has done a great deal of good. But many schools also label disruptive or violent students as having an “Emotional and Behavioral Disability” (EBD). Rather than provide these students specialized attention in separate settings, schools often funnel them into traditional classrooms. …

The rise in room clears is directly related to policy initiatives aimed at stamping out so-called “restraint and seclusion.” In the past, as a student’s misbehavior escalated, a teacher might ask the student to leave the room, put a hand on a student’s shoulder to try to get him to calm down, or—if need be—direct him by the arm away from a tense situation and possibly call security to remove him from the classroom area. But as policymakers take these options off the table, teachers have little recourse but to remove every single other student from the classroom before someone gets hurt.

It seems pretty clear that Virginia is moving down this same road: (1) mainstreaming of emotionally volatile students in classrooms while simultaneously (2) restricting the means of physically subduing them, referring them to law enforcement authorities, or even suspending them.

This is the road to anarchy in schools. The rights of students with “disabilities” or considered “disadvantaged” trump the rights of everyone else. Teachers lose teaching time, students lose learning time, and less is learned. We can measure our regression through declining test scores. This is not a problem that mo’ money can fix. Unfortunately, I see no sign that anyone anywhere in Virginia is willing to resist the trend.

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18 responses to ““Room Clears” Coming Soon to a School Near You?

  1. The thing is you don’t know when a kid can go off – it’s not just the ones you think you know about.

    So what do you do when that happens ? A teacher who weighs 140 lbs is supposed to do what – physically?

    You keep focusing on certain “defined” types of kids that you feel should be segregated and/or separated prior – but the real point is what is the policy even for others?

    You cannot have “no” policy – i.e. just tell the teacher to deal with the situation… or call in help, etc…

    Once you have a real policy in place, then you can deal with known and predictable kids as well as ones you did not know about.

    I’m starting to wonder if Conservatives can really deal with real things. They seem to focus on particular scenarios that appeal to their political leanings (i.e. opposed to “liberal” solutions), but they completely ignore the bigger picture that has to be dealt with and the reality is – kids no one suspected also go off and have to be dealt with – and you have to have a policy that works for all teachers regardless of their physical size or training in dealing with violent students.

  2. When i was at a jesuit high school in the 1960s we had a Prefect of Discipline, a priest who was a former Golden Gloves boxer. Solution?

    • At the high school level … that works for me. My public school had so-called Assistant Principals. All men. Every one big enough to be an NFL linebacker. They were generally affable fellows but nobody doubted what would happen if serious disruption occurred. In-school fist fights between students happened – in the halls, in gym, out on the playing fields. The Assistant Principals broke up those fights very quickly and the fighters were suspended. No questions asked.

  3. A solution is to create a potential “damned if you do; damned if you don’t, situation. Parents of children who are not disruptive need to complain every time their child experiences a “cleaned” classroom. And if it get ridiculous, sue the school division. Force the government to come up with a reasonable approach to dealing with regularly disruptive children.

  4. I remember watching Dickie Bell talk about these issues on the floor of the House. He was really passionate about the prevailing practices of suspending or expelling these students.

    I am highly leery of any policies that come down from the central state office because local school administrators have shown they are not willing to exercise common sense about discipline. They generally have a “zero tolerance” toward disciplinary issue. I don’t know whether they are afraid of litigation or whether then are just intellectually lazy.

    Let me be clear–students who are violent and pose a serious threat to teachers or other students have to be removed from the classroom. A student for which the classroom has to be cleared frequently needs help. Calling law enforcement or suspension is not the answer. This is why we have school psychologists–to help these kids.

    I have not taught at the elementary grades and I don’t know the answer. But I don’t think blanket policies are the answer. Each kid and situation is different and has to be dealt with differently. This is another example of how we don’t pay our teachers enough.

    • Gotta say there is no easy answer and we sure do not pay our teachers enough.
      A story … we moved to Clinton. NY from Quaker Swarthmore, PA, when my son was in first grade. During the first weeks of school there was a fire drill. One kid didn’t want to go out and got boxed in the ears. My son had never seen an adult hit a child and he was, thereafter, very leery of his teacher who he had thought was OK.

      At my normal teacher/parent meeting I brought this up. She explained about the fire drill and said that some kids in the school only responded to some level of hands on discipline. Whatever happened after that my son was fine for the rest of the school year, evidently knowing that he wasn’t going to get hit. So … it is an unanswered question, but I think it is better, or maybe essential, for kids who know violence at home, to learn there are other ways.

      The School Board I served on in Fairfield County, CT had an excellent reputation for dealing with built in problems. We were nowhere near as rich as Westport or Greenwich, but a child who threatened or trashed the classroom would be dealt with by special help of some kind. If there was a repeated threat to the teacher or other kids the child would be removed from the classroom, maybe even sent to a special school. I remember working out an overnight school placement for 1 very disturbed student.

      So … ‘clearing’ sounds better than disaster until the ‘bouncer’ gets there … and then evaluation, … did the teacher overreact … and then a variety of possible reassignments reviewed. It will cost monies.

  5. When a culture needs rules such as these, it is a sure sign that that culture is in active collapse. These rules solve nothing, only make matters far worse for the innocent, here obviously all the rest of the kids in the classroom. Society can never be made perfect, or anywhere close, but when the most troubled within it, trump everyone else, set rules and run show and end up leading the rest of us, collapse is close behind. That’s where we are now, headed fast down the toilet.

    • Effective teachers are always intensively trained for these “problems” and blacked to the hilt, by good schools worthy of the name.

      Hence, the effective teacher in a good school worthy of its name holds the kids in her classroom of kids enthralled as if they were in the palm of her hand. Outrages are rare in good schools, never tolerated.

      I am reminded of the young Asian women, a photographer / producer who filmed and produced shows on race riots on campuses, how she talked a white supremacist thug “down out of tree” in front of his girlfriend, otherwise alone in his apartment. Compare that young woman’s ethic, emotional control and competence with UVA’s hysteria B/S.

      • Correction:

        I am reminded of the young Asian woman, a photographer / producer who filmed and produced shows on race riots on campuses, how she talked a white supremacist thug “down out of his tree” in front of his girlfriend, otherwise alone in his apartment. “No need to clear the room there.” And it didn’t “cost monies.”

        Compare that young woman’s ethic, emotional control and competence with UVA’s hysteria B/S, the pain, suffering, nonsense, and monies UVA’s hysteria cost it students, its town, its state, and all of us in America. Same with these incompetent public schools we got all over America, killing so many innocent kids’ futures.

    • Above, I suggest: “When a culture needs rules like Room Clears Rules, it is a sure sign that that culture is in active collapse. These rules solve nothing, only make matters far worse for the innocent, here obviously all the rest of the kids in the classroom.”

      As proof of rapid change for the worse in our society and its schools, Don replied below:

      “Fifty-six percent of surveyed teachers and parents in the state have reported a “room clear” in their child’s classroom over the past year.”

      Wow.

      I went to public schools from K-12 and never saw anything that would have resulted in a room needing to be cleared. My kids never had that happen either. Why do I get the sense that the more tolerant schools are of disruption the more disruption occurs. Oregon sounds like a circus side show. 56%?”

      Why today’s onslaught of toxic things growing wild in our culture, and toxic forces flooding our schools, overwhelming our kids’ education and health, so destroying out kid’s future, and ours too?

      An October article in The Atlantic magazine speaks brilliantly to what is going on here and why.

      “When the Culture War Comes for the Kids” is written by Atlantic staff writer George Packer. He is also the author of “Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century” and “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.”

      Mr. Packer’s article is long, detailed, and speaks powerfully to many issues afflicting today’s culture, including our schools. Below are a few loose extracts. Read the whole article linked in below to do it full justice.

      “The gaps in proficiency between that separate whites and Asians from black and Latino students in math and English are immense and growing.”

      “Our zoned elementary school, two blocks from our home, was forever improving from a terrible reputation … students were wandering around the rooms without focus, the air was heavy with listlessness, there seemed to be little learning going on.”

      … an elderly black women who had lived in the neighborhood a long time and understood all about our school dilemma … scoffed at our “zoned” school … “Don’t send him there,” she said. “That is a failure school.” It was as if an eternal curse had been laid on it, beyond anyone’s agency or remedy. The school was mostly poor and black. We assumed it would fail our children because we knew it was failing other children. That year, when my son turned five … we applied to eight or nine public schools. …”

      “Around 2014, a new mood germinated in America – at first in a few places, … but growing rapidly with amazing rapidity and force, as new things tend to do today. It grew upward toward the end of the Obama years, in part out of disillusionment with the early promise of his presidency – out of expectations raised and frustrated, especially among people under 30 … this new mood was progressive but not hopeful … hope was gone. At the heart of the new progressivism was indignation, sometimes rage, about ongoing injustice against groups of Americans who had always been relegated to the outskirts of power and dignity. And incident – a police shooting of unarmed black man, news reports of predatory sexual behavior by a Hollywood mogul; a pro quarterback who took to kneeing during the national anthem – would light a fire that spread overnight … fed by (much older and deeper injustices). Over time, the new mood took on the substance and hard edges of a radical egalitarian ideology …”

      Politics becomes most real not in media but in your own nervous system, where everything matters more … because of guilt or social pressure … In the winter of 2015-16, our son’s third grade year, we began to receive a barrage of emails and flyers from his school about (opting out) of upcoming tests. … One black parent told me … standardized tests are the gatekeepers to keep people out, and I know exactly who’s at the bottom … It is torturous … because they will never catch up, due to institutionalized racism.” Our school became the citywide leader of a new movement …”

      The bathroom crisis hit our school the same year. … Within two years, almost every bathroom in the school, from kinder-garden through fifth grade, became gender neutral. … All that biology entailed – curiosity, fear, shame, aggression, pubescence, the thing between the legs, was erased or wished away.” The school didn’t inform the parents… who learned about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to bathroom after holding it all day. Girls told their parents mortifying stories of having a boy kick open their stall door …”

      The battleground of the new progressivism is identity. That is the historical source of exclusion and injustice that demands redress. … When our son was in third or forth grade, students began to form groups that met to discuss issues based on identity – race, sexuality, disability.

      “… In politics, identity is an appeal to authority – the moral authority of the oppressed. I am what I am, which explains my view and makes it the truth.

      The politics of identity starts out with the universal principals of equality, dignity, and freedom, but in practice it becomes an end in itself – often a dead end, a trap from which there’s no easy escape and maybe no desire to escape. Instead of equality, it sets up a new hierarchy that inverts the old, discredited one – a new moral cast that ranks people by oppression of their group identity … (that) for all its up to the minuteness carries the whiff of the 17th century, with heresy hunts and denunciations of sin and displays of self-mortification … an atmosphere of mental constriction in progressive milieus, the self censorship and fear of public shaming, the intolerance of dissent – these are the qualities of an illiberal politics …”

      I wished that our son’s school would teach him civics. By age 10 he had studied the civilization of ancient China, Africa, the early Dutch of New Amsterdam, and the Mayans. He learned about the genocide of Native Americans and slavery. But he was never taught about the founding of the republic. He didn’t learn that conflicting values and practical compromises are the lifeblood of self-government. …

      The fifth grade, our son’s last was different. That year’s curriculum included the Holocaust, Reconstruction, Jim Crow. The focus was on “upstanders”—individuals who had refused to be bystanders to evil and had raised their voices. It was an education in activism, and with no grounding in civics, activism just meant speaking out. At the years end, fifth graders presented dioramas on all the hard issues of the moment – sexual harassment, LGBTQ rights, gun violence… a plastic bag smokestack sprouting endangered animals … Compared with previous years, writing was minimal, and when questioned, the students had little to say… They had not been encouraged to research their topics, make intellectual discoveries, answer potential counter-arguments. The dioramas consisted of cardboard, clay, and slogans.

      … Our daughter wasn’t immune to the heavy mood. She came home from school one day and expressed a wish not to be white so she wouldn’t have slavery on her conscience. It didn’t seem a moral victory for our children to grow up hating their species or themselves …” End of Quote Extracts

      https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/10/when-the-culture-war-comes-for-the-kids/596668/

  6. First, Dickie Bell is one of the many unsung quality legislators who has a key expertise he is willing to bring to the process. He is a career public school educator and his passion on these issues comes from life experience. No one who has not spent plenty of time in a classroom or principal’s office can easily second guess him. Bell will be missed and most never knew he was there, he was so quiet and nice.

    Second, a regulatory process that puts rules and guidelines in place also protects teachers and administrators, who are much more liable if they act without such guidance. They have a legal framework to cling to.

    Third, there are no easy answers but clearing the classroom is a reasonable response the first time such an episode happens. The question is, then what? What interventions or changes are made to prevent a repeat, and then you talk about the proper placement. I wouldn’t do that job, and wouldn’t want my wife back in a classroom like that again. Too many parents and pundits treat them like dirt, face to face and very much to their backs. As with so many things, the enemy is us.

    • How right you are. The teachers in these incompetent schools are as much the innocent victims as the kids who want to and can learn.

      Here, I am reminded of our soldiers returning from Viet Nam to America after the enemy’s TET offensive that our soldiers had repulsed and won in 1968, how they were spit on by American at home. Every year after that it got worse. Its still with us today. The enemy is us, but more particularly the enemy is our leaders failure to lead, to fix problems, including most particularly those in higher education, I believe.

  7. This is why “handicapped” kids get a bad reputation. In addition, you’ve now taught kids that this is normal, so they are forced to listen/learn in an anxious atmosphere, not knowing if they are going to get their right to a safe environment destroyed by another classmate. On top of that, you’ve now said that violence is appropriate to get your way.
    I’m just voicing what people aren’t saying.

    • Yes, exactly. Learning is hard, and kid’s ability to learn is easily degraded, even destroyed, by chronic interruption and distraction, not to mention chaos and trauma, that can permanently destroy or severely impair a child’s learning for a lifetime.

      This has been proven in great detail over and over again, as Steve has explained here earlier. In really good schools well run, serious, highly refined and enforced protocols typically are put in place to insure the best learning environment possible for every child’s learning. This is the school’s culture. Once in place, it’s free, and it short circuits what would otherwise be a far greater risk of enormous harm to a child’s learning in school and at home too. I’ll try to expand on this using examples later.

  8. Looking up an old post of mine … about using restraints and such things !
    At that time ….
    “I tried to find out what other states used the justice system so liberally to deal with their in-house discipline. What I did find, to my amazement, was that 15 states expressly permit corporal punishment by teachers in their school. Only 28 states expressly prohibit corporal punishment.” WOW!

    “Here is a question … What the H*** are schools doing calling for the Justice System to handle any of the actions listed below? Creating rap sheets for kids who cut in the lunch line? Really?
    • Singing a rap song on a school bus;
    • Running and shouting in a cafeteria;
    • Cutting in a lunch line;
    • Pushing past a teacher to get onto a school bus;
    • Yelling or cursing at other students or teachers; and
    • “Flailing” as a result of a schedule change that was difficult for the student to process because of a mental health condition.”

    “Reading Larry’s post I would add …wearing inappropriate clothing … to the list of ridiculous reasons to call in the police.”

    As I read about this … it is regulations for how teachers use restraints and seclusion, banning the use of prone restraint. WOW! And to think the state has set aside $500,000 to train staff on using these procedures!

    Virginia is NUTS! How abut joining the 28 states that explicitly prohibit corporal punishment. Restraints and Seclusion are NOT teaching tools, or productive ways to deal with emotionally problematic kids.

  9. “Fifty-six percent of surveyed teachers and parents in the state have reported a “room clear” in their child’s classroom over the past year.”

    Wow.

    I went to public schools from K-12 and never saw anything that would have resulted in a room needing to be cleared. My kids never had that happen either. Why do I get the sense that the more tolerant schools are of disruption the more disruption occurs. Oregon sounds like a circus side show. 56%?

    Any kid who so disrupts a classroom that a room clear is required needs to be removed (by force if necessary), analyzed, treated if possible and a determination made whether the kid can rejoin the class without causing another room clear. If the determination is “no” then the kid needs to be taught in a separate environment. Of the determination is “yes” the kid should rejoin the class. However, another room clearing incident should result in separation to a different learning facility.

  10. Good comments!

    I put more stock in what should be done or not in the folks that deal with the issues in real-time every day than folks in armchairs with various political philosophies!

    Second – As DJ says, every school has an “assistant” principle who basically functions as a “operations” manager of the “environment” at the school – keeps tabs on those with behavior issues and can intervene when needed.

    Third – you do NOT want teachers or others who are not trained to deal with violent situations. You cannot just “deputize” them and assign whatever tasks you think they should do …….

    Fourth – In our county – we have a School Resource Officer – a full-time deputy from the Sheriffs office. He/she is there not only to protect the students from today’s gun-toting wackadoodles but also to deal with other “threats” like some students that are also potential criminals.

    The reality is – that our schools are microcosms of our society and while some blame the parents for the problem – it’s not dealing with reality which is that some parents are ALSO bad actors themselves and probably should have never had kids. In other situations, the parents are effectively AWOL.

    Talk with ANY full-time person at a high school and ask them about these issues – BEFORE – you completely form your own opinion. You may find that it’s not like you think it is.

  11. Larry,

    Just to be clear about my earlier remarks that I re-posted here … they were posted on “Disorderly-Conduct Complaints in Schools Surge 45% in Past Five Years” on this blog and the list of ‘stuff’ was reported in a report from the Justice Center.

    I think it is wrong to criminalize those actions … to create a record for a kid who does any of those things, but evidently that happens. As someone who chaired a school board in another state, I can say that we thought nothing like those actions by the school would ever have even been considered as reasonable methods of discipline.

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