Friday, May 22, 2009

WV: Chesapeake parent says student sent to cluttered timeout room

Courtesy photo
Christy Clark, the parent of a fifth-grade student at Chesapeake Elementary, said her son was kept in a timeout room with equipment and other items.

From The Charleston Gazette:

CHESAPEAKE, W.Va. -- The mother of a Chesapeake Elementary School fifth-grader is upset that her son had been put in timeout for several hours in a room with heavy ladders, computer monitors, carts, cleaning equipment and other stored items.

Christy Clark said her son has mood disorders and struggles to fit in socially, but he should not have been so isolated from other students or kept in timeout for hours on end.

Marianne Annie, the principal at Chesapeake Elementary, said school staff members meet resistance whenever they try to resolve problems with Clark and her son.

"When it didn't work out, it was our fault," Annie said.

One day this school year, Clark said her son had been kept in the room for about four hours. He has been sent to timeout on more than one occasion, and once he was sent to eat lunch by himself in the gymnasium's storage locker, where balls and other gym equipment are kept, Clark said.

"And they wonder why he's not able to socialize," she said.

Annie said she is not aware of a child being kept in a timeout room for that length of time.

"If he was way out of control, maybe he would have been brought down here for a while," she said.

Clark was told it was because her son had not completed his schoolwork.

Annie said students are always supervised during timeout. If a student acts out, then the aide or teacher might stand in the hallway, next to the door. The door has a small window with a view of the room.

"If he was violent, a lot of it was just attention-seeking," Annie said of the boy. [NOTE: Yes, folks, this is the school principal. Wonder if the child's physicians/psychologists would agree?]
The timeout room has a bathroom and students are never locked inside, Annie said. Title I teachers have used the room for instruction, and other school specialists have used it for testing, she said. [NOTE: We don't know about you, but would YOU want to take a test in that room? Where are the chairs, where are desks? ]
The room, an old kitchen space, also has a popcorn-making machine. Students have made popcorn and slushies in the room, Annie said.

Clark snapped a few photos of the room earlier this year. Some photos showed computer monitors on a countertop, a couple of ladders only a few feet from a student's chair, boxes with seasonal decorations, toys and other classroom items stacked overhead, rolls of colored paper and other equipment and materials.

On Wednesday, the room looked relatively similar, although some computer monitors and a few other items appear to have been moved.

The room is safe, Annie said. [NOTE: But what if a child smashed a computer monitor or climbed on top of those wooden railings? ]

Still, Clark said her son climbed up on a sink counter one time so he could peek out the window.

The person supervising the boy entered the room to have him climb down, she said.

"I'm sure nobody's going to tell you that's a regulation timeout room," Clark said. "He shouldn't be put in there to start with.... That's not a safe place for kids."

Sandy Boggs, director of special education for Kanawha County Schools, said most timeouts are held in a classroom.

"We like to have safe locations for timeout," Boggs said. [NOTE: So does that mean they DON'T always have safe locations for timeout? This makes it seem like safety is optional. You know, we'd LIKE to have safe locations, but, eh, well, we'll just use this storage closet because it's there.] "Whenever our children are placed in timeout they are supervised, or should be supervised." [NOTE: So which is it? Are they or aren't they always supervised?]

Three or four hours is unusual for timeout, Boggs said.
[NOTE: The purpose of "time out rooms" supposedly is to give the child time to deescalate from "unsafe behaviors" so they can return to the classroom. It should not take 3-4 hours for a child to regain "control" over their emotions and stop being a "danger to themself or others" so WHY are these children losing multiple hours of instructional time? How many hours of instructional time (thereby getting further behind) are these children losing? We're guessing the district hasn't been made to offer compensatory education to those kids for those hours...]

"The school has been told that is not to be used as a timeout room," Boggs said. "Once we found out about it we tried to correct it."

Annie said students are not taken into the storage room for timeout anymore. Students might go to her office or the school clinic, she said. Still, Annie believes Clark would have had a problem with any other timeout room.

Clark said her son suffers from mood disorders, Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Children with Asperger's have difficulty with social interactions.

He has difficulty making friends and is easily bored, she said.

"They want to isolate him and get him away from everybody," Clark said.

Annie said that the boy's mother is upset that he is moving on to middle school and she doesn't believe teachers and staff at the elementary school were able to correct his problems.

"Behaviorally, he's not ready for anything," Annie said.

Clark and the boy's grandmother, Phyllis Anderson, believe he will have a difficult time adjusting to middle school.

"They're just trying to wait it out and move him on to middle school," Clark said during an interview several weeks ago.

Clark said this week she has since taken her son out of the school.

Reach Davin White at or 304-348-1254.

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