Here is why Room Clears are a bad idea

For those who didn't see this story on the nightly news about "room clears"

This is not a new tactic and it has gained popularity as it "avoids restraint." Well yes it certainly avoids the use of restraint but it also creates what can be called a "prosthetic social environment" that contains a different set of rules than the rest of society. In this new prosthetic environment it's perfectly acceptable to disrupt public events (education) and then destroy the venue (the classroom). This is true of no other place in our society. If you go to the local BEST BUY and a child has a tantrum they aren't going to empty out the entire store while the child destroys inventory. They will call the authorities and have the child removed if the parents cannot do so. Of course this destruction is not simply a result of a failure to remove the child from the classroom (not even the most restrictive form of physical restraint, just transportation procedures), but it is also most likely a treatment failure. Of course teachers need training, of course schools need resources including access to behavior analysts, all of these things are true. But schools must also decide what are the rules in this school? What we will allow our students to do? Will we let them strip naked and roam down the hall with no clothes on? No, we would not would we? We would stop it to protect their dignity yes? If they ran into the street would we let them get hit by a car? No. We would stop them, wouldn't we? So what are the rules about being disruptive? It seems that the new rule is as follows: Be as disruptive as you like, whenever you like and we will use reverse seclusion (we bring seclusion to you instead of bringing you to seclusion). Furthermore, when you are upset, the rule is that you are allowed to destroy whatever you like and you nor your parents will be held fiscally responsible. Taxpayers will foot the bill. That is part of the rule too.

Using room clears with children does not teach them to be valued members of society. It prepares them to be a failure in society for this is not the way to learn to control one's self when upset. We aren't left alone to destroy a furnished room. Are there times where a room clear may be the most appropriate thing to do? Yes in a situation where someone produces a deadly weapon a room clear is possibly the best option short of involving law enforcement. For students who are merely disruptive at high levels, they can typically be escorted out of the room using minimally restrictive transportation procedures. Room clears can, potentially, reinforce problem behavior as a room clear constitutes a HUGE change to the environment that is contingent on problem behavior. Even if a student did not want the room to be cleared, a reliable change that big could possibly reinforce the behavior that produced it.

There are indeed special rules in schools and special rules and laws for children and many laws don’t even apply to children until they are 18, but some still do. No we cannot and should not treat children exactly as we would treat adults, or children who are completely non-verbal exactly like those who have extremely good communication. We make accommodations. We don’t have 7-year-olds arrested and held for bail. We don’t prosecute them or sue them civilly. We cannot continue, however, to set NO limits on children who disrupt public events and/or injure themselves or others or property. Most parents will NOT allow children to destroy their own home. Some have no choice because of the size and strength of the child and a lack of support and this is understandable, but most will stop the child.

We can meet anyone half-way in setting limits, but when we remove all limits we avoid some immediate things (restraint) but it is often at an unforeseeable future cost. Restraint may be avoided but now the individual is also secluded from peers which can be construed as another form of restriction. This form of social restriction however allows unchecked problem behavior (property destruction). The issues are very complex and I cannot cover them all here but suffice it say that room clears are not inherently evil but their down sides are numerous and in most cases the judicious and prompt use of transportation procedures (escorts) can stop a small crisis before it becomes a large one.

Perhaps we need some new rules?

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