Are outlawed 'scream rooms' being used in Washoe County schools?

Reported by: Ashley Cullins
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Updated: 12/13/2014 11:32 am
RENO, Nev. (KRNV & -- An advocacy group says several schools in Washoe County are using a form of punishment that's been outlawed by the state for years.

People First of Nevada presented the school board with an 11 page report last night showing the use of seclusion rooms, otherwise known as scream rooms. After reading People First's report, News 4 followed up with both sides. News 4 went to two schools today, one from the report and another a parent outside the group wrote us about, to see if reality matches the reports.

Tierstan, 9, has autism. Her mother, Melissa Hagblom, says Tierstan was put in a scream room at Caughlin Ranch Elementary about two years ago.

"She was talking to me one day and said that 'I was in a room by myself and I don't know why'," Hagblom says.

Hagblom says she doesn't know how many times it happened, but even once is too many.

"No child deserves to be locked in a scream room," Hagblom says.

With the help of an advocate, Hagblom says her family approached the school. Hagblom says she thinks Caughlin Ranch has addressed the issue since their complaint.

"We do believe that it was removed, that scream room, but we're not 100 percent sure," Hagblom says.

Multiple schools are mentioned in the 11 page report. Bud Beasley Elementary was mentioned several times, so News 4 went inside and talked to Principal Mary Ellen Arrascada. She says seclusion punishment isn't happening at her school.

"We always look for other ways to calm a child down and to redirect them to the task that they are working on, or try to find the reason they are upset," Arrascada says.

Arrascada says the pictures of the rooms used in the report by the advocacy group are of a room used for a library, not a place for punishment, and the doors don't even lock.

"Anyone who comes to the school would see that that's not what it's used for," Arrascada says. "It's used for the students to read their books."

Another woman contacted News 4, saying her son was put in what she calls a "white room" at Billinghurst Middle School for hours just last year, after her son was quote "horsing around" with another student. News 4 went to the school and saw the rooms. There are four near the main office. They all have windows and the doors don't lock. School officials say they're used for academic purposes like makeup tests, not punishment, but they didn't comment on this specific case.

The Washoe County School Board has requested a full staff report, and that item is on the agenda for their next meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 13 at 4 p.m. Board President Barbara Clark says the public is welcome, and they want any parents who have had problems with their students in seclusion rooms to contact them.
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Suz75 - 7/26/2013 10:20 AM
1 Vote
We need cameras in schools! Our school officials need to be held accountable. I am hearing all to often about the abuses of our local school districts, especially concerning special needs children. Parents are held to a certain standard and school officials should be as well. We trust that our children are in a safe environment that is conductive for their educational needs. I am growing tired of the blame game that goes on between the school officials and the parents. In the age of big brother, I find it a bit odd that this isn't already implemented.

momof2boys - 7/25/2013 11:02 PM
1 Vote
The kids at Billinghurst all know about the "white rooms" and yes, they still are currently used when children misbehave and are used for be segregation. It is common knowledge what these rooms are for!! This was current as of the 2012 school year!

tonysam - 7/25/2013 1:52 PM
1 Vote
No, those are storage rooms. I have never seen this nonsense, and I both worked and subbed in those schools. It sounds like this "advocacy" group took a look at some blueprints, and concluded that 2 plus 2 equals five.

momof2 - 7/25/2013 11:58 AM
0 Votes
Like these school are really going to show you the rooms in question? My guess is the District is so scared they paid overtime to have the crew change the doors to not have locks on them for when Channel 4 showed up. Sad thing is most parents of special needs children will not be able to attend the next meeting because they have a trespass order against them.

KusanagiShiro - 7/25/2013 10:23 AM
0 Votes
I live in the Bay Area, and this happened to me. Multiple times. when I was younger. Up until ninth grade.

tonysam - 7/25/2013 7:21 AM
1 Vote
It sounds like this "advocacy" group is making claims that aren't supported by the facts. There are a lot of small rooms in these newer schools, but that doesn't mean they are used as punishment. Frankly, I've never seen them used for that purpose when I was at WCSD.

gunner41 - 7/24/2013 10:37 PM
1 Vote
So, instead of having to spank kids nowadays, and not using "deprivation technics" and such, why do the schools not just MANDATE that the PARENT stay at the school with their "hard to handle" kids? When did the EDUCATORS sign the dotted line to be PARENTS, as discipline of children is the JOB of the PARENT(s). Kids are "coddled" far too much.....and if that "room" looks dangerous maybe the kid can be homeschooled in an effort to keep them happy and safe!! No place like home!! Personally, I think teachers should be allowed to open up their own schools and have private contracts with parents to educate their kids....public schooling is beyond repair!!

NVAdvocate - 7/24/2013 8:11 PM
1 Vote
That room at billinghurst looks very dangerous. if a child is left in there for hours they could hang themselves or electrocute themselves. I don't think educators get that isolation is torture. torture can lead people to do awful things and think awful things. Do they even have a protocol for checking on students, or what kind of notice do they hand the children being put in there? do they say, you can come out and get a drink. You can go to the bathroom. That mom said they are using them for in school suspensions and depriving the students of anything to do while sitting there. its a depravation chamber. Why do educators deprive struggling or disruptive students of educational opportunities anyway? what kind of sense does that make?

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