Lost finger prompts lawsuit, new bill to address school seclusion rooms

A Wayne Township student lost part of her finger in a door of a seclusion room.

Parents of a Wayne Township School student have filed a lawsuit against the district after an incident that led to that student losing part of a finger.

It is the latest of a number of incidents involving restraint or seclusion that caused the legislature to act.

It might seem hard to believe, but rooms set aside for restraint and seclusion have become a part of education. The rooms are used to protect the child, students and staff. But there have also been problems, like one in Wayne Township.

Indianapolis Attorney Robert Turner is handling the case for the family.

"These rooms are put there for reasons. I think the staff might have the right things in mind but having the right things in mind and doing the right thing is quite different," said Turner.

He is referring to an incident where a 12-year-old girl at Sanders School tried to escape from a seclusion room and lost the top of her left hand middle finger when it was caught in the door.

"It certainly should have been predictable that a heavy metal door in this particular environment could cause injury given the fact that a child might rush the door," Turner said.

Sanders School is a school for children with special needs. Nine school districts in all send students with special needs to Sanders, which is located in Wayne Township. It has an enrollment of a hundred students.

In this case, staff had to enter the room five times to protect the child from self-mutilation. The fifth time she bolted.

"What did they expect? This is not a prison break. This is not Iraq or Iran where you have political prisoners. This is a student trying to get an education. It was not a case where best practices were used," said Turner.

There have been other instances where a teacher actually used duct tape to restrain a child.

So lawmakers have decided to set a threshold. State Senator Dennis Kruse is a co-author on the bill and Chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

"Some of the parents thought teachers abused their kids. You look at the teacher's side, you look at what you do to control some of those kids before they hurt themselves, hurt the teacher or hurt somebody else," said Kruse.

Lawmakers are hoping that by setting guidelines schools will have a better idea what is acceptable or non-acceptable behavior by the students and the schools.