Four walls, for safety

The use of seclusion rooms in the state has received headlines lately, but for school districts they are commonplace.

The Marshalltown Community School District has seclusion rooms in each one of its schools, primarily for the use of dealing with aggressive special education students.

Also called time out rooms, they are used for students who have been violent.

“Some students show a lot of aggression to themselves or someone else,” said Matt Cretsinger, director of special services for Marshalltown schools. “The last thing we want to see is someone get hurt.”

The rooms are bare with four walls and no windows. Cretsinger said the average time for each student in the room is approximately 5 minutes. Rarely is there a need to keep a student in the room longer than 30 minutes.

“Some of them, they head in there and they calm down in just a couple of moments,” Cretsinger said. “Other kids, they get in there and this is a safe place for them to let go of what is built up. But that’s not the norm.”


Staff are trained regularly on when is the right time to use the seclusion rooms and for how long.

“I know that we train our staff and inform our parents,” Cretsinger said. “We make sure they are used the way they are designed to be used according to the law.”

Door locks

The doors for the rooms have a special magnetic pressure lock, which means someone from outside of the room must hold it down for it to remain locked.

“This makes sure we have constant supervision,” Cretsinger said.


Marshalltown schools do not use restraints as a way of controlling a student.

“We don’t use mechanical or medical restraints at all.” Cretsinger said. “Most places don’t use those unless it’s some kind of psychiatric facility. I’ve never seen them in a school.”

Cretsinger said in the end the rooms are being used the right way, and stressed their use is not meant as a way to demean students or make staff feel superior.

“We are not using it as a way for power or control or to try to dominate a child,” he said. “We use it when we are worried about safety. We use them the way they are intended to be used.”