Stop Locking School Children in Tiny Isolation Rooms

Isolation Chamber

Target: U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan

Goal: Ban the practice of locking children in tiny confined spaces as a punishment for unruly behavior

Many schools in the United States use cruel punishments known as isolation rooms or “scream rooms,” which expose children to the risk of death, injury, and psychological torture. Children in scream rooms are locked in padded rooms that may be as small as four by four feet, and are left there in isolation for varying lengths of time as a form of discipline.

Washington state allows the use of isolation rooms if a child presents a “clear danger” to other students, but Bellevue School District permits a child to be detained if he or she is merely determined to be “spontaneous” or “unpredictable.” Bellevue even extends its punishment procedures to a child who “disrupts class” or “damages school property.” In locking up a child, the policy allows schools to do what is easy, rather than what is right by the child.

Schools across the United States have unclear policies that permit isolation rooms. Incidents such as injury and death have occurred because of the lack of clear standards for punishment in schools. Instead of having an isolation room, schools could have “time outs” for a misbehaving child, in which a child remains clearly in sight.

The Department of Education acknowledges that isolation rooms lack evidence of benefits to support their usage, yet there are only 30 states that have restrictions for such punishments, and even those laws have loopholes. We must take action against these inhumane and ineffective methods of punishing children.

Please sign the petition below, and urge Secretary Duncan to open the doors of isolation rooms and free children in the United States from the chilling consequences.


Dear Secretary Duncan,

Schools in the United States must not be permitted to use cruel punishments like isolation rooms, or “scream rooms,” for children who have misbehaved in minor ways. Bellevue School District of Washington even allows a child to be detained for exhibiting “spontaneous” or “unpredictable” behavior. Instead of allowing schools to help a child, this policy allows schools to hide a child, literally stifling his or her abilities. Most importantly though, injuries and death have resulted from such treatment at schools in the United States.

The Department of Education has found that isolation rooms do not have the intended effect of reducing misconduct in schools. However, twenty states in the United States still do not have restrictions on the use of these room. The states that do have laws protecting children from certain punishments have loopholes allowing harsh punishments, such as isolation rooms. There are humane alternatives; schools could employ “time outs” that avoid the isolation rooms’ tragic consequences.

I urge you to stop the use of isolation rooms in United States’ schools. Please take action to ensure children’s safety and ensure a chance for them to learn.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: David Icke

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  1. Sam Outhorn says:

    This is absurd and very cruel. Children are fragile and will keep trauma effects, possibly rendering them unruly in later life, to put it mildly. No school – or parent – should be allowed such ‘methods’!

  2. This is unreal that this kind of “punishment” is used in our own country! This is a form of torture! this needs to be ended like yesterday and should have never been allowed in the first place. Human beings are truly the real animals on this planet!

  3. They should be locked in that room..To find out how it feels like.They are in the wrong job.

  4. That happens when people are in the wrong job,and those who employt hem should be made responsible for their actions.

  5. Michelle says:

    Spare a thought for all captive animals, who are locked up for life…

  6. Done in the US schools??? I cannot believe today that people can do that to children???? SICKO get a life

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