*Gulp* The school board passed a rule that you must submit your statements in writing, and only speak of agenda items at their meetings. I've written this letter to a woman I was very excited to see elected, who ran on cleaning up the school financial mess, transparency, and accountability. I'm always afraid of speaking out because I see Woodjie may have to attend school here. I've been thinking and thinking on it. Finally, I thought... all the more reason I need to speak. Here goes:
Thank you for working to ensure that school board meetings are open and transparent. Like you, I was disappointed by the "guidelines" set up by the board. They would thwart open discussion of things the school district would not like to air openly that "somehow" never will make it onto the agenda.
We have been homeschooling for almost three years. Staff repeatedly locked my autistic six-year-old in a closet for "bad choices" when he was in public school. This closet is called a "safe" or "recovery" room in education circles, but I would imagine that if I locked my child up that way that I would be investigated for abuse, and rightly so. He is autistic. He does not have a behaviour problem, although it's my firm belief that his behaviour in school worsened due to his inhumane treatment at Name Elementary in the first months of the 2006-2007 school year.
As you may know, children have died in these rooms and they have been shown to traumatize children. I did not know this at the time. I thought that the educators were the "experts" who knew what worked and what was best. It positively sickened me, but I went along with what they said for a time, thinking that it was "helping" my son.
I know differently now. I also know that even at the high school, students may be subjected to beatings with a wooden paddle. It's detailed in the student handbook! It should make every parent sick. Surely students are not so routinely out of control in Cityname schools that a room must be set aside to lock them up? Surely things are not so out of control that paddling needs to be detailed in the handbook? Parents can't pick up their children before they are beaten??
It's just sick. But I do have some hope.
I'm sure that you are aware that a new law has passed mandating that every district create written procedures for the use of the so-called "safe room."
I have another autistic child at the Junior High, and I also have a non-verbal child who will go to the public preschool. (Obviously, I think autism is genetic based on personal experience!) I have never had a problem with middle school staff or junior high staff. They are to be COMMENDED for working on ways to diffuse tension before a crisis point is reached. I also have made it clear that I have no problem with a "room in which to calm down," but I DO have a problem with a child being shut up and locked in a cell-like room. I have asked that when my son "needs" the Safe Room, that the door remain open.
Might I make a suggestion? In the formulation of the "safe room" procedures, please have your committee look at how they handle things in the preschool. I understand (believe me!) that working with preschoolers is a different ballgame altogether; however, I find their disciplinary procedures are less PUNITIVE and more toward integrating the child back in when he has calmed. Many of these children are disabled and will need extra support. You should be very pleased with what you find at the preschool. Have you seen their Sensory Room? It's incredible.
I'd submit to you that the entire BIST system of working with children is adversarial, and a PBS model would show more respect toward the student. Would you please look into it? I know the preschool is more on a PBS model. At the very least, I think the ethos of some staff toward disabled children needs to be changed, and PBS is a step in the right direction.
Thanks for your time and consideration!
Mrs. C's real name and address
What would you say if you received this in your inbox? "Crazy lady?" Or "I'll look into it?"