Parents of special-needs kids defend school's use of isolation booth

2012-11-28T20:20:00Z 2013-04-01T15:48:13Z Parents of special-needs kids defend school's use of isolation boothBy Leslie Slape / The Daily News Longview Daily News
November 28, 2012 8:20 pm  • 

The Longview School District is reviewing use of a isolation booth at Mint Valley Elementary School to make sure staff is following state rules, but an adoptive parent of a special-needs daughter said the booth helped transform her from a violent child to a “happy little girl.”

District spokeswoman Sandy Catt said the booth is used with parental consent to de-escalate aggressive behaviors for special ed students. Washington state code allows schools to isolate a student as a form of “aversive intervention” within strict guidelines.

Niki Favela of Longview said before her daughter Star, 11, used the booth, she was notorious as one of the worst children in the district.

“She was expelled from two schools before second grade,” Favela said in a phone interview Wednesday.

When Star, who is autistic, came to the family as a foster child 2 1/2 years ago, “she would physically attack us nine or 10 times a day,” Favela said. “She would throw chairs, books, hit, kick, head-butt. The adrenaline in her little body was overwhelming. ... She didn’t have control. She didn’t know how to calm herself down.”

Star learned how to self-regulate her emotions and her body in isolation, Favela said.

Star used the booth “as a way to keep her and other students safe until she could calm down,” Favela said. “Today, Star is a much different child. She’s in a regular fourth-grade class and has the ability to use the isolation booth of her own free will. Sometimes she just needs a break from the outside world to collect her thoughts. Sometimes the noise is overwhelming and she just needs quiet.”

On Tuesday, photos of “the box” posted on Facebook by Longview mother Ana Bate went viral, sparking a storm of criticism primarily based on the assumption that the booth is used as punishment for misbehavior. Favela and school officials said it’s never used for punishment, and most of the children use it willingly.

“To the outside world it seems extreme,” but without the program “our daughter would not have same opportunities as everyone else,” Favela said.

A Longview parent of two special-needs children said Wednesday that her older child, 10, used the booth once in the last school year and has not needed it this year. The boy has numerous disorders that make it difficult for him to control his emotions and his body, making him a danger to himself and others, said the woman, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Jessica. Her younger child, 7, is autistic but has not needed to be in the booth yet, she said.

“Before I had signed the written agreement for (her older son) to be able to be in there, he was very out of control and he had to be held in the office,” she said. When she arrived, he had been banging his head on the wall, wrapping himself in cords and throwing shoes at the teachers who did not have the legal paperwork to restrain him, she said.

“All they could do was ask him to stop and put their hands between his head and the wall,” she said.

She said the people need to educate themselves on the issue before criticizing the use of isolation.

“It’s not for every child,” Jessica said. “It’s for children who need it to keep themselves safe, the staff safe and every child in that room safe. When I had to restrain my own son at home, he head-butted my ribs so hard they were bruised. I couldn’t take a breath without hurting for six months.”

Tearfully, she added, “I would have loved to have an isolation room in my house, just so he wouldn’t have to look back at Mommy six months later and say, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that, I didn’t mean to hurt you.’ They don’t have control of themselves at those moments.”

Catt, the school district spokeswoman, said that before Tuesday, the district had never received a complaint about the booth, the only one in the district. It formerly was kept at Columbia Heights Elementary before being moved to Mint Valley four years ago.

Catt said that Jill Diehl, the Longview district’s director of special education, estimated that eight or nine students use the booth in varying frequencies. The district is reviewing its isolation policy and the booth to see if changes are necessary, Catt said.

The door has peep holes, which might be inadequate to meet codes, which mandate that the enclosure “must permit visual monitoring,” Catt said.

Another area of concern is an unverified report received Wednesday that a child in the general student population might have been placed in the booth, a clear violation of the code, Catt said.

“We’re trying to get information about that right now,” she said late Wednesday. “We’re taking it very seriously.”

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(22) Comments

  1. beerman
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    beerman - November 28, 2012 10:35 pm
    here is my it or not.if a child is so "out of control"they should not be in school to begin with.If they might be a danger to themselves or someone else...they need more than a "box"to help with their problems.i really do not care who likes my opinion.i still think its a form of abuse.If we as parents do this to our kids at home and the police are called we get cps sent to our house and then we get called "bad parents"or "child abusers".but the school(government)can and its ok?bull
  2. Joybell
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    Joybell - November 28, 2012 11:18 pm
    This is straight bull and if you are a parent and condone this action you need to be checked and have your butt sit in the box. Stop looking at your child's school to help solve your parenting problem issues and look at your self and step up and be a parent. What happens when a non Special Ed student becomes unruly and violent do you take them out for ice cream?? Wake up Longview and step into the real times!
  3. herbjones
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    herbjones - November 29, 2012 4:14 am
    you folks have no idea what you are talking about. Every child deserves the right to the same education as everyone other child. None of these children have been deemed dangerous or out of control in a normal atmosphere, but when you put them in a place that is uncomfortable, like most of us, they get overwhelmed. Some children respond to being put in chairs, some respond to singing or games, and some children PREFER to have the stimulus stopped for 20 to 30 min. you need to grow/smart up.
  4. MomofPublicSchoolKid
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    MomofPublicSchoolKid - November 29, 2012 8:50 am
    Wow! Joybell, you are OBVIOUSLY uneducated on the issue of which you comment. These children do NOT suffer from "parenting problem issues." They suffer from a range of diagnoses such as ODD, ADHD, autism, AO, RAD, and many other behavioral disorders. These children usually have parents who love them and care deeply about their wellbeing, not to mention the wellbeing of others around them. *See next comment*
  5. MomofPublicSchoolKid
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    MomofPublicSchoolKid - November 29, 2012 8:53 am
    They have actually taken the time to educate themselves on whatever diagnosis their child is unfortunate enough to have been given. It is more than apparent that you have done NOTHING to learn the facts BEFORE you rendered a public opinion. Unless you have actually walked in the shoes of the caregivers of these children, it is absolutely NOT your place to pass judgment.
  6. MissPonder
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    MissPonder - November 29, 2012 9:34 am
    I totally ok this method as long as the box is monitored the entire time it is in use. Having been poked in the face by a "busy" child before, I understand.
  7. TrixieOR
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    TrixieOR - November 29, 2012 9:46 am
    I am sorry, but I know that little girl mentioned in this article. Nightmare student is being too kind ! She was a complete danger to herself and others. I witnessed her behavior on more than one occasion. I was amazed when she was finally expelled for a very dangerous outburst. The fact that she would even be allowed back into a public school setting amazes. I am glad we are not in that district anymore. Just a matter of time before she completely looses it and a student gets severely injured.
  8. Hawaiin_surf
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    Hawaiin_surf - November 29, 2012 10:45 am
    I know nothing about autism but this type of thing should never be used on certain kids with behavior problems or certain mental health issues. This type of treatment used on certain mental or behavior problems can lead to suicide and other things. I would just make sure it is really helping kids before using the room. I would just say before any kind of treatment is used on anyone the person should be checked out and the therapy tried and if not working it should stop RIGHT AWAY!
  9. Hawaiin_surf
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    Hawaiin_surf - November 29, 2012 10:51 am
    I would say if it is helping your child and you are ok with it then go for it. Before I consented to any type of a treatment for me or my child I would make sure that whatever they are being diagnosed with is really what they have and I would try the room out and see how they respond before consenting. Because what helps one child with ADHD might not help another and they might have other issues other than that. I have had bad experiences so I would be extra cautious.If it helps go ahead!
  10. dManeMan
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    dManeMan - November 29, 2012 11:35 am
    We got a bunch of arm chair psychologists in here.
  11. Angelique1971
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    Angelique1971 - November 29, 2012 12:13 pm
    Parents who support the isolation of any child in a box is out of control!! Stick them in a box and see how they like it!! A isolation box is Abuse, disgusting and wrong. This should be illegal. Im outraged!!!
  12. ProudKelsoMom
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    ProudKelsoMom - November 29, 2012 3:24 pm
    I don't have a special needs child but I do understand that those children feel "safer" & are soothed in small & quiet surroundings. If this box makes them feel safe & is monitored every second then I'm OK with it. For the rest of the children without special needs, it's not OK. I just hope that the school is being honest on how they use it. My concern is first & foremost about the children.
  13. Andy C
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    Andy C - November 29, 2012 4:58 pm
    Thank you, herbjones - apparently my earlier reply was found offensive by TDN because I don't see it here - you are correct, EVERY CHILD has the right to the same education as another and people who are ignorant to the special needs of autistic children - or any other children with special needs - should keep their opinions to themselves, since they have no knowledge on which to base their opinion. And if they don't want their kids around special needs kids, they should homeschool.
  14. bumblebee
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    bumblebee - November 29, 2012 5:06 pm
    I agree the issue for the best interest of the child. Only a parent can concent to that. My concern is the school. In todays classes the teachers need so many aides to help our teachers, who can guarantee the monitoring of this so called box? I hope parents and educators can come to a medium on this issue.
  15. tellis
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    tellis - November 29, 2012 5:11 pm
    A close relative of mine, who is a teacher at Mint Valley says that the school even calls the parents before allowing a child in it. Just drove by and saw channel 2 doing a live shot there. Definitely the biggest non-story gong.
  16. DK618
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    DK618 - November 29, 2012 6:34 pm
    If you agree that there is a need for this box for these children and think it is beneficial so be it. However think about being this child. If a child can not tolerate stimulus and you are aware of that then maybe they shouldn't be put in that position. You can pull the "rights" for the same education however at the same time if this education is not beneficial there are many programs out there. This is a public school and children should not be exposed to isolation of peers!!
  17. Ordacgus
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    Ordacgus - November 29, 2012 9:29 pm
    An IEP is just that...a plan tailored to each students needs. Some need more behavior intervention than others at points in their development. This is never taken lightly by parent or teacher. It was necessary for my son to use such a quiet room, off an on for about a year in earlier grades. It helped him learn to self calm, providing safety for him and those around him...the quiet, isolated space comforted him, helping him regain composure faster, & eventually mature and join mainstream class.
  18. Teacher
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    Teacher - November 30, 2012 1:15 am
    My personal opinion (not reflecting LSD) is that I don't like the looks of the little pink room. I've seen it in person. Yet, it beats physical restraints from trained staff who restrain a child until he or she settles down, to avoid injury to himself or others. The pink room seems better than being held, arms and legs restrained, to prevent kicking,all while avoiding to be bitten. It is an unsightly scene and leaves more chances for injuries. All this disrupts the education of the majority.
  19. kitten
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    kitten - November 30, 2012 6:15 am
    I have seen many a child go under their desk or into a closet when they know their emotions are out of control. (Actually, many adults do this too) This is a good thing. Hopefully it will help them as they get older to know when to walk away from their own child or spouse when they are too emotional before something horrible happens. Kids with disabilities down't always have the filters needed to make this choice on their own.
  20. Fajita
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    Fajita - December 03, 2012 12:50 pm
    The people so against this should go after mental hospitals too and people who put straight jackets on people to restrain them too!! If kids with problems can get help at young ages then they can better get along in life other wise it could be a mental institute they end up in.... I have seen it happen 1st hand!!! And she is still not ok. But had she had a safe way of acting out maybe she would have been ok. But all these people who have never had to deal with it seem to know more!!
  21. LongviewMomma
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    LongviewMomma - December 03, 2012 2:25 pm
    I am the parent of a special needs child and honestly I would never allow ANYONE to put my child in a box I am also the parent of two children that are not special needs! You put my child in anything like that and I will PROMISE you there would be a lawsuit, my child is human not an out of control animal that needs to be caged. It doesn't take putting them in a box to keep them under control it takes patience and knowing how to be a parent!! So glad my kids no longer go to Mint Valley!!
  22. Snickerfritz
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    Snickerfritz - December 04, 2012 3:37 pm
    The ignorance coming from 90% of you. "My kids would never get put in a box blah blah blah so glad they don't go to mint valley blah blah" maybe you should return! I hope your all such good parents you don't try and and help your kids learn to read because all of your comprehension skills are elementary at best. It is repeatedly and clearly stated numerous times that the box is not a punishment tool and used by the child's own free will. The parents of the children in question want this.
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