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VA Lawmakers Review Controversial School Disciplinary Practice

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Youth Commission 2014 Youth Commission 2014
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

Virginia has a controversial disciplinary practice in the state's public and private schools that allows teachers to lock children in a room or physically restrain them if they are acting out. A new law with more regulations might be introduced to the General Assembly in a few months.

However, some parents are horrified by the practice and are demanding more communication and healthier tools to calm down an anxious child.

"He was literally huddled in the bed, and said, 'Please don't send me back to school. I can't go back. I can't go back into that room,'" said Sean Campbell

Campbell, a former teacher, knew all was not well in the classroom. He did not want to name the school, but his son, Alex, then in second grade, eventually told him about the “crisis room.”

"If we were to do that at home, I would have Child Protective Services knocking on my door. But on a school setting, it's OK," said Campbell.

The family discovered that on about nine occasions, the school principal locked Alex in a dimly-lit, black-walled storage closet.

"We were shocked. It was an absolute shell shock."

Campbell reached out to the Arc, an organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With help from Arc and concerned lawmakers, House Bill 1106 studied the issue of "seclusion" and "restraint" in Virginia schools.

Monday, the Youth Commission came to a majority agreement that Virginia needs more regulation.

"There are many, many inconsistencies with the way we do that, the way it's applied,” said 20th District Delegate Richard Bell (R). “As a former teacher, one of the big problems that I had with it was once that happens to a young person, we immediately label them."

The Campbell family says it learned a lesson it hopes others avoid, and now Alex feels happier at his new school.

The family has considered the possibility of legal action against Alex's old school.

The parents, and others at Arc, believe restraint and seclusion should be reserved for actions posing an immediate threat to the child or others.