News Article Details

Woman has grandson transferred after calm room incident

Austin American-Statesman - 9/25/2018

Sept. 25--A grandmother said she had her autistic grandson transferred to another elementary school in the Round Rock school district after learning a teacher had forced him to remain in a calm room.

Rhonda Davidson, who currently acts as guardian to her grandson, said staff at Brushy Creek Elementary School informed her in late August that he got scratch marks on his arm when the teacher put him in the calm room in late August.

A calm room or quiet room, which are used in many schools throughout Texas, are allowed under state education code, but only under certain guidelines. A door to the room can never be locked, and parents of special education students must be informed of when their child is put in one.

Davidson said during a visit to the school last year that a teacher had implied the calm room was an option available for students to calm themselves. The calm room at Brushy Creek included a door with a small hole where a doorknob is usually located.

But in late August, Davidson said a teacher told her that a teacher's aide had held the calm room door shut with her foot while her grandson was inside. She said the teacher and teacher's aide told her that her grandson received light scratch marks from putting his arm through the hole.

"The teacher's aide said he was forced to stay in the room, and that he wasn't the only one," she said.

Davidson said there were other signs that her grandson was put in the calm room against his will. When mentioning his teacher, she said, her grandson said, "I don't want to go to jail."

Brushy Creek Principal Jenny Strong said in a statement that the calm room is available to students "to go in a safe and supervised environment to collect themselves, regroup or rejoin their classrooms." Federal privacy laws inhibited her from sharing specific information on Davidson's grandson, she said.

"Our staff members make sure this resource is used responsibly and have never verbally instructed or physically forced a student to remain in the calm room longer than they desire," she said. "Staff members also remain diligent in contacting parents or guardians when a student uses this resource."

After hearing of her grandson getting scratch marks -- which she said were minor -- Davidson said she reached out to the school principal. She received a call back from the assistant principal, who told her they would remove the calm room door.

After that conversation, Davidson began pushing for her grandson to be transferred, which ultimately happened in early September. She said she won't take any legal action against the school district, but the boy's mother is considering it.

As an owner of a child care center, Davidson said she would have been forced to shut down under similar circumstances.

"I could never do that at my preschool," she said. "We've had violent children, but it never occurred to me to lock one of them up in a room."

Davidson said she would like to see the teacher reprimanded and more training provided to teachers on the proper use of calm rooms.

"They can't lock kids in a room, especially special needs kids," she said.

Strong said in her statement that the calm room has been successful for students at the school as it allows them to work through emotions and continue their day at school.

"With these positive results, we will continue offering our students the opportunity to utilize this resource while staying true to our campus processes and procedures on calm room usage," she said.

Editor's note: This story was modified to include the statement from Brushy Creek Elementary School Principal Jenny Strong.

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