Thursday, June 8, 2023

Podcast Jan. 25 – Paying for affordable housing? Plus, yes, seclusion rooms are real

We start this week in the exciting world of housing bonds.

No — wait! — it’s important. We promise. Housing bonds could allow the city to tackle the affordable housing crisis by subsidizing non-profits, incentivizing private developers, or funding upkeep and repair of low-income homes.

You could say it would allow the city to put its money where its mouth is — except it’s not the city’s money, it’s the taxpayer’s money. And, because voters would have to approve a housing bond, it remains to be seen whether the public outcry fo affordable housing would translate into a willingness to commit taxpayer money to the issue.

From that very big issue, we move on to an issue that’s very small — a small, five-foot-by-five-foot padded room where a student in a local charter school was illegally locked after she became anxious in class.

Yes, this is a real thing that happened. And, yes, seclusion rooms — padded rooms that are held shut from the outside by teachers or staff — are a real thing in many of the region’s schools. Federal officials have spoken out against them, citing the potential for misuse, the fact that they may exacerbate behavior instead of curbing it, and a nationwide problem with underreporting. But none of that have stopped schools from using them from a variety of very different reasons, including calming students with sensory overstimulation or emotional control issues, to dealing with aggressive or destructive behavior in students without any recognized cognitive or psychological issues.

Seclusion rooms are legal in North Carolina, provided that strict guidelines are followed. This local charter school violated those regulations, but there are broader concerns even when all the rules are followed.

This story is disturbing, but it’s probably not the last time you’ll hear about the issue.

Finally, a trip to Carolina Beach, and the return (again!) and defeat (again…) of the proposed ‘Barge Bar.’ This time, we’re taking an extra-close look at the process of approving or denying so-called ‘special use’ or conditional use’ permits. It’s complicated, and confusing, and the abundance of fine-print means that the town’s council members may left open an avenue for the barge bar to return, once more, this time in Superior Court.

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