STATELINE (WIFR) – When we hear the words “padded room”, we tend to think of a psych ward or mental health facility, not a school. However, some local schools have something similar to a padded room. It’s a story many of you have been asking us about on Facebook.
A bright blue room covered in mats may not look comforting to most people, but it’s a room where some students are taken inside Maple Elementary School in Loves Park.
“If they are unable to control themselves, I mean they are adolescents, they’re children, they can’t always control their emotions. I mean it’s a safe process that we cannot physically intervene with a child where they can still deescalate,” said Director of Student Support Services Heidi Lange.
Trained staff members take students to the room when they’re a harm to themselves or others, but some people are concerned about the size of the space.
“According to our school code it has to be a certain size, it has to be big enough for a student along with another individual.”
We measured out the room which turned out to be out 11 feet by 7 feet, so much smaller than the average classroom and school leaders say the walls are covered in mats to protect students.
“It’s free of everything, it doesn’t have outlets, it doesn’t have wires, it’s padded so the students can’t harm themselves.”
Superintendent Dr. Julie Morris says the intervention room is a positive process.
“It’s not a dark room where we throw kids and leave them in there for hour. It’s a place we have as part of a plan,” Dr. Morris said.
Students can be left in the room up to 30 minutes after they calm down, however parents are usually called if the child isn’t deescalating.
The Harlem School District has had these rooms for nearly ten years. They currently have three. One at Maple, Marquette and Machesney Elementary Schools. They’re also adding one to the middle school.
Some parents are informed about the room, if for example, a student has a behavioral issue or special needs then the room might be discussed as part of their intervention plan. However, these rooms are not discussed with the general public unless their child is put in the room then parents are notified.