We discuss school security quite often on this site, but there are a couple of other school-related issues that I’d love your feedback on (I’ll post the second one tomorrow).

Seclusion RoomSome schools include seclusion rooms, where a child may be placed if he/she needs time to calm down without endangering themselves or others.  Without getting into the discussion of whether or not a child should be contained in such a room (it’s quite a hot topic right now), let’s talk about the egress requirements.  The codes require free egress from each room or space (with limited exceptions), so locking someone in a room is not an option.  I have seen a couple of different methods used to secure these rooms in a way that is acceptable to the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ):

a) A mechanical lock which requires someone to hold the outside lever up or down in order for the latchbolt to be projected.  If the adult who is supervising the child walks away, the latch is retracted and the door is no longer locked.

b) An electronic solution – often an electromagnetic lock, which requires someone to push a palm button outside of the seclusion room door to keep the door locked.  Again, if the person stops holding the button, the door unlocks.  This application would also typically unlock on fire alarm or power failure.

These methods are not addressed by the International Building Code or NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code, but there are some state Board of Education requirements addressing these rooms, including requirements for the door hardware.  For example, the Connecticut Board of Education requirements state the following:

Any room used for the seclusion of a person at risk shall:

Have a door with a lock only if that lock is equipped with a device that automatically disengages the lock in case of an emergency. Not later than January 1, 2014, the locking mechanism of any room in a public school specifically designated for use as a seclusion room shall be a pressure sensitive plate. Any latching or securing of the door, whether by mechanical means or by a provider or assistant holding the door in place to prevent the person at risk from leaving the room, shall be able to be removed in the case of any emergency.

An “emergency” for purposes of this subdivision includes, but is not limited to,

(A) the need to provide direct and immediate medical attention to the person at risk,

(B) fire,

(C) the need to remove the person at risk to a safe location during a building lockdown, or

(D) other critical situations that may require immediate removal of the person at risk from seclusion to a safe location; and

Have an unbreakable observation window located in a wall or door to permit frequent visual monitoring of the person at risk and any provider or assistant in such room. The requirement for an unbreakable observation window does not apply if it is necessary to clear and use a classroom or other room in the school building as a seclusion room for a person at risk.

This web page from the US Department of Education includes a downloadable document detailing the seclusion room requirements for each state.  Here is another report from the Congressional Research Service – The Use of Seclusion and Restraint in Public Schools: The Legal Issues.

WWYD for a seclusion room?  Are seclusion rooms used in your state?  If yes, what has the AHJ approved as an acceptable solution for the door and hardware?

Photo:  Courtney Hergesheimer

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