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article imageEmotions run high at PTA meeting to discuss use of 'scream room'

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By Leigh Goessl     Jan 13, 2012 in World
Middletown - Last night concerned parents gathered at what has been described as a "jam packed" PTA meeting last night in Middletown, Conn.
According to the Middletown Patch, emotions ran high at Thursday night's PTA meeting in the school's gymnasium. The issue had triggered such emotion there was reportedly standing-room only in a crowd of about 150 people.
Yesterday Digital Journal reported on the controversy in which children who are acting out in class are purportedly put in rooms, that are being described as little more than concrete-walled "book closets" without windows.
Parents are upset their children have either been placed in the room or have had to listen to other children screaming while in the room. They were also shocked to learn the 'scream rooms' have been in practice for two years and no one was informed.
Earlier this week it was confirmed custodians have had to clean up blood and urine in the spaces, although the school representatives said the rumors were exaggerated about the blood, indicating there was an incident when a child smeared his cut finger along a wall.
Frechette opened last night's meeting by stating no children were ever in "serious" danger, to themselves or others. He did concede, however, since the rooms were put into use in Sept. 2010, nine students have been taken away by ambulance after being confined in a time-out room; six for attention of medical problems, three for behavioral issues.
The Patch reported principal Pat Girard said prior to this week only three parents had asked about the time-out rooms. She said "communication is key", and essentially is a two-way street.
At the meeting some parents questioned what goes on in these rooms, why the rooms are used at all, and others inquired if students with special needs are placed in the rooms.
Officials responded that no students with special needs have ever been placed in the rooms.
NBC Connecticut reported one concerned parent spoke of her son. “He tells me, ma I don't want to be in the room,” parent Felicia Roulajc said. Her eight year old son has behavioral issues. “I told them that and they still put him in the room.”
Based on education law, the school no legal obligation to contact parents of children placed in the room without an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as there are for students that do have special needs outlined in their IEP.
Despite the protocol for questions and answers to be exchanged, there were reportedly frequent outbursts during the heated meeting, and some parents even "squared off" on one another, as some felt specific children were being singled out during the community gathering, said the Patch.
“What happened to this school… that it’s gotten to the point where we’re ashamed to say our children go to school here?” one parent said.
Freshette said the biggest issue is a breakdown in communication between administrators and parents, stating, “It’s gone on too long. It should have never gotten to this point. Communication was lacking and we are fixing it.”
One parent purportedly called Freshette out on this, inquiring as to why she never got a response to an email sent three weeks ago. After the superintendent offered an apology for not replying, another parent called him to task stating, "How we can expect you to fix the problem then?”
Two 10-year-old children addressed the board saying they were scared when they come to school and cannot concentrate on their work. Parents expressed worry that these, and other young students, will suffer long-term psychological effects from the school's practice.
A separate Patch report said Freshette "knows there are problems at the school and that the Central Office is trying to address it because, [he said] “quite frankly, it’s gone on too long.”
This statement drew applause from those present at the meeting.
On Wednesday, a letter from district superintendent Michael Frechette to Farm Hill principal Pat Girard was published which outlined an action plan the district planned to take in order to resolve issues occurring in the school.
The Middletown Press reported 'scream rooms' are common in the state of Connecticut and others. 'Scream room' is a name dubbed by students, officially the segregated spaces are called “restraint and seclusion” rooms, said Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, who serves on the state legislature's education and higher education committees.
However these rooms are supposed to have restrictions which include padding, no locks and children must be in the visual range of a staff member at all times said state Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford.
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