Jackie Graham is pleased following a meeting with school district staff last week.
Graham had raised alarms concerning the use of a ‘quiet room’ at South Broadview Elementary to modify her son Deacon’s behaviour.
Deacon is seven, in Grade 2, and has Down Syndrome.
Graham said there is no behaviour plan or individual education plan in place yet for Deacon, “but at least we were able to come to the table and have some really important discussions and talk about where we go from here. The school has agreed to our request that this room not be used for Deacon. That was what I was hoping to get out of it.”
She said it was good the school didn’t say the room was the only option.
“We still have a lot of things to work out. There still are hurt feelings and so on but at least we’re working in a positive direction.”
She emphasized she feels badly for the teachers at the school “as I know this has nothing to do with them.”
Deacon will be undergoing a behavioural assessment, she explained, which will provide some insight on next steps.
Graham said the quiet room was used for her son the week of Sept. 21 over four days before she learned about it. She said she learned when she was called by staff to pick up her son because “the quiet room wasn’t working.”
She describes the room as about nine by seven feet, “about the size of a walk-in closet.”
A photo taken of the inside shows a mat and a bean bag chair with a blanket, all on the floor.
The school district issued a news release after Graham’s concern was raised in the media, stating that some students have a behaviour plan “developed by a team of people including the teacher, learning resource teacher, principal, education assistants AND parents, along with other professionals as necessary (for example speech-language, hearing, visually impaired, counsellors etc.)”
Part of the plan, stated superintendent Glenn Borthistle, sometimes includes a calming room.
“All schools in the district have an alternate space or a calming room for when students need a place to calm so that they can return to the learning environment. In our district, calming rooms that are currently in our schools strictly follow the Ministry of Education protocols and guidelines which exist for these spaces.”
He states students are never left alone.
Regarding Deacon: “In this particular case, when the student has been in the calming room he has always been supervised by an adult. Sometimes with the door open and an adult in the room with him. Sometimes with the door closed and the adult directly supervising him through the window on the door. In following Ministry of Education protocols, students taken to calming rooms are never left alone.”
Graham says when she and her spouse Kirk went to the school, Kirk went into the room to see what it was like and closed the door. It locked automatically from the inside, she said, with a button high up the wall to release it.
The Observer asked the school district why the door locks if students are under constant supervision.
Morag Asquith, the school district’s Director of Instruction, Student Services, replied via email.
“Physical restraint of students and use of a calming room with the door locked is always used as a last resort for our school staff and students. Calming rooms have been used for many different reasons. Calming rooms are used for students who have challenges self-regulating themselves. If the calming room is used with the locking door, a student has demonstrated behaviours that have impacted the safety of self or others. Again, this is not the norm in our schools; the use of a locked door calming room is a last resort.”