B.C. parents outraged after son with Down syndrome locked in 'quiet room'
Published Tuesday, October 6, 2015 9:57PM EDT
The parents of a B.C. boy with Down syndrome have temporarily pulled their son out of school after learning he'd been repeatedly put in a so-called "quiet room" – a small, windowless room meant for students who misbehave.
Jackie and Kirk Graham said their son Deacon, 7, typically enjoys going to school but lately they've been keeping him at home.
"I think it's awful. It breaks my heart for my son," Jackie Graham told CTV Vancouver.
According to the Salmon Arm, B.C., parents, Deacon was occasionally being locked in a nine-by-seven-foot room for misbehaving. They say the isolation room had a sign on the door indicating the lock would disengage in the event of a fire.
"This needs to stop," Kirk said. "Nobody should be put in a lockdown room."
The local school district told CTV Vancouver it couldn't discuss the issue on Tuesday, but issued a statement saying staff would be meeting with Deacon's parents this week. The district's director of student learning has already met with staff at Deacon’s school.
The use of quiet rooms in B.C. schools made headlines nearly two years ago after the release of a report from advocacy group Inclusion B.C. According to the report, some students have allegedly been placed in small rooms, closets and even stairwells for up to three hours.
Provincial officials have vowed to look into the use of quiet rooms.
On Tuesday, B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier said the provincial government is nearly ready to release guidelines on how and when quiet rooms should be used.
"The last 18 months, we've been working on making policies to make sure that school districts and teachers are appropriately using these rooms, these quiet rooms, for safety purposes," Bernier said.
He added that if used properly, there's a place for using quiet rooms in schools to help de-escalate a situation.
Creating guidelines for quiet rooms, however, is not a solution, said B.C.'s NDP education critic Rob Fleming. He points to underfunding in the public school system as part of the problem.
"There's a staff shortage – special needs education in many districts around the province is not what it should be," Fleming said. "It really comes down to the ministry of education failing."
B.C.'s new quiet room guidelines are expected to be released later this month.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Kent Molgat