Independence parents upset over the use of an isolation room at Mill Creek Elementary School on Tuesday night asked school board members to ban the rooms from the district.
The parents showed up with a petition signed by about 260 others calling for the district to get rid of isolation rooms that they say are being used to discipline students misbehaving in class.
The district has disputed that claim.
Several parents addressed the board, which took no action on the isolation rooms but said it would hear from several other parents on the subject in a closed session following the public meeting.
“I really want you to rethink your policy of using these rooms for all schools in the district,” said Tonni Brende, a parent who has raised five children in the district. “These rooms are not working. Students are traumatized.”
District officials describe the isolation room at Mill Creek as an empty room with a door that opens into the room. It used to be a conference room, copy room and a small instructional room. A student cannot be locked in, and a student is supposed to be monitored at all times while in the room.
Roman Davis, a recovery interventionist for the district, said he has taken children to isolation rooms.
“They are used as a last resort,” Davis said. “The rooms are vital to keeping children safe and to remove them from other children when they are going into crisis.”
District officials told The Star that students who are “displaying dangerous behavior” are monitored at all times through a window in the isolation room door. The room is never supposed to be used to punish a child.
“It’s a place to allow students to calm down and get away from whatever may be upsetting them so they can ideally return to learning,” said Jana Corrie, district spokeswoman.
But parents insist the room is being misused. They complained that the Mill Creek isolation room, which has a brick wall and exposed, uncovered electrical sockets, is unsafe.
Sara Baker, whose kindergarten student attends Mill Creek, likened the isolation room to solitary confinement that “turns students into inmates and principals into wardens.”
Parents, who said they were furious about the rooms, met last week and walked door to door in the community around Mill Creek at 2601 N. Liberty St. to let parents know students are being placed in an isolation room that is sometimes pulled shut and held by school staff.
With his mother’s permission, outside the board meeting Andrew Porter, a seventh-grade student at Independence Academy, said he has spent time in an isolation room at his school.
“It is punishment beyond what punishment is supposed to be,” Andrew said. “It was angering at best, traumatizing at worst and I felt degraded, brought down to animal status.”
There are 15 isolation rooms in schools in the Independence district.