Former special ed. teacher speaks out on investigation into time out rooms

Another perspective has been added to the continuing debate over time out rooms for special needs children.

Among the more than 200 people who have been commenting on our exclusive investigation about problems with time out rooms at Oswego County BOCES is Laurel Rudd. As a former special education teacher, who taught at a southern tier BOCES program, she sees both sides of this controversial issue. Rudd says she was surprised to see the pictures of the time out rooms that were ordered to be shut down by the state Education Department at the Fourth Street School in Fulton.

She supports Wendi Starusnak's decision to lodge a formal complaint after Starusnak's daughter was injured in a time out room. Nevertheless, Rudd says there is a place for time out rooms in a special education program. "It's a tool" she says, "but if the room is the punishment, then the child will only associate the room as a punishment. They won;t learn it's a tool for them to help themselves regain control."

She says the rooms should be designed to be big enough for the student and two staff people, well lit and safe with padded walls and proper ventilation.

Rudd feels that teachers should not be to blame for what took place at the Fourth Street School because they can only work with the resources they are given, but she feels they probably should have spoken up about the condition of the time out rooms. She says teachers are trained to handle unruly students, but often find themselves in predicaments where if they don't restrain a child they could be held responsible, and could also be held responsible if they do. "They have to make seat of their pants judgements."

Click here to read the many comments and the original story.

Laurel Rudd's original comment on

As a former special ed teacher who has worked at a BOCES, I have to say that there really is a need for time out rooms for some students. However, the rooms should be safe for the students, well lit and ventilated, and only used for as long as necessary for the student to calm down - minutes, not hours. The student should NEVER be unsupervised. The room should not be used as a punishment - it should be a haven from whatever triggered the student's uncontrolled behavior in the first place, a safe place where they know they can vent and regain their self control with help as needed from staff. Give the teachers a break - they can only use the resources available to them at the school (and they may have tried to address the situation with the administration earlier without results - we don't know). Look higher to assign responsibility for changing the time out room situation at this BOCES - apparently this was a long-standing issue, not a single incident. I really respect Wendi for standing up for her daughter and the other students over a potentially unsafe practice.