PHOENIX - State lawmakers took the first steps this week to what some hope will be outlawing "isolation rooms" used by some schools to deal with problem students.

The House voted 57-2 on Tuesday to require parental consent before putting students into the rooms. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The only exception in HB 2476 would be in cases where a student poses "imminent physical harm to self or others."

In those situations, however, the school has to make reasonable attempts to notify the parent, in writing, by the end of the day.

Democrats Sally Ann Gonzales of Tucson and Juan Mendez of Tempe voted against the measure. Neither stated a reason.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said she sees this as just a first step in dealing with the most immediate issue of parental ignorance about what is happening to their children at school.

She eventually wants a state law banning the practice.

The use of the rooms apparently came as a surprise to several legislators. And Townsend herself said she learned about them only after a lawsuit was filed against the Deer Valley Unified School District.

Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, a former assis-tant principal, said just getting parental permission is not enough.

"Just because you get permission from the parent doesn't mean that it's good for schoolchildren," she said.

"A lot of the parents are pretty fed up with their own child and basically don't care," Miranda said.

"So we've given them now basically permission to put a disruptive student in an isolated room which is, I believe, not good for our students."

Local angle

In 2008, a Tucson Unified School District librarian was placed on administrative leave for placing a student in an empty room to isolate her from her peers.

The practice was said to be unacceptable because it is expected that students be supervised. The librarian likened the tactic to "timeout."

TUSD Governing Board policy states all students must be under assigned adult supervision at all times during the school day and during any school activity. There is no direct mention of isolation rooms.

Arizona Daily Star