Parents outraged over 'scream rooms' for special needs students at Connecticut elementary school

Parents at one Connecticut elementary school say they are outraged over the use of so-called "scream rooms" to discipline special needs students.

The two rooms at Farm Hill Elementary School in Middletown, Conn., came under fire after several students complained about the sounds of children yelling coming from the rooms, while building custodians reported having to clean up blood and urine from their floors and walls.

Tricia Belin, whose two children attend the school, described the rooms as 6-by-4-foot spaces with concrete walls used to isolate special needs students who are disruptive in the classroom.

"Closet is pretty much what it is," Belin told, saying that her children are regularly subjected to "screaming" coming from inside the rooms.

Belin said she complained to the school's principal when she first learned about them last October, and was told they were considered an "alternative learning environment." She claims administrators were "vague" in their explanation about the rooms' purpose and said they did not say whether students were placed in them alone or with a teacher.

Shawn Archer, whose 10-year-old daughter also attends the school, said parents were never notified about the rooms and claims his child and others are fearful of them.

"She doesn’t want to go to school," Archer said. "She's constantly in the nurse's office trying to get out of there."

"I don’t want them to use this as a tool to gain control of students," he said. "I think it's poor judgment on somebody's behalf."

Board of Education Chairman Gene Nocera acknowledged in an interview with that the reports about the rooms were "disturbing" and said school officials were investigating their use.

"We understand the parents' concern and we take their concerns very seriously," Nocera said. "We want to be sure our students are being treated safely." He stressed that under school policy, no child is to be left alone at any time.

Nocera said he first learned last week about the spaces, the size of a "book room," and said they were being used to handle special education students, a few of whom have a "history of behavioral issues."

Nocera went on to say that he and others presented a plan to parents at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night in response to the reports. He said the school district is looking to give more resources to the school, including hiring full-time psychologists and providing more training to faculty.

Archer and other parents say they are confident the Board of Education will handle the matter responsibly.