Scream Rooms Widespread in Connecticut, Other States, Schools Admit

Middletown, Connecticut- What’s in a name?

When it comes to special needs students, apparently quite a bit. So-called “scream rooms” are getting a bit of attention in Connecticut, and administrators in schools across the state admit that the practice is widespread and in line with state laws. So what’s the problem with scream rooms?

It seems that like many other loaded words used colloquially by children in reference to practices or diagnoses of their fellow students who face challenges, the official nomenclature for the practice and the space within the school is not accurately being conveyed. “Scream room” conjures up some very One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Imagery, giving one the impression that careless and overwhelmed teachers are hauling special needs children to a dank basement and allowing them to- as the name implies- scream. Also controversial is the practice of locking a distraught child in a “timeout room” to calm down while they scream.

The issue was foregrounded earlier this week when, at a Board of Education meeting earlier this week, parents of students at Farm Hill Elementary School in Middletown, Connecticut took administrators and board members to task for the scream room practice, which they believe disrupts learning in other classrooms. At the meeting, the older sister of a student described conditions that could be traumatic to a child, saying of her little sister:

“She can hear the kids screaming at the top of their lungs as she’s trying to read… When she asks the teachers what’s going on, they never give her any answers. They just say, ‘ignore it.’”

Parents also witnessed behavior on the part of the district that sounds- to be mild- worrying. Farm Hill PTA President Apryl Dudley told the Board of Education in a letter:

“Three parents called me after they witnessed two staff members holding a door shut from one of these rooms with a child on the other side as they kicked and screamed uncontrollably. My fear is that a child is going to get severely hurt.”

Dudley continued:

“There is something unsettling, knowing that a child is hitting their head against walls and urinating everywhere, then only to be let out and put back in classrooms with our children.”

(It should be noted that while the experience sounds undoubtedly traumatic for Ms. Dudley’s snowflakes, it is undeniably more so for the actual child who has been locked in a windowless room to urinate on themselves.) While the practice appears to conform to state laws, as many as three separate investigations have been launched- by the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, the Office of the Child Advocate and an unconfirmed Department of Children and Families investigation.

Do you think special needs children should be locked in restraint and seclusion rooms, or as the kids call them, “scream rooms?”