We just found out our non-verbal 13 year old son with autism spectrum disorder was being locked in a containment room when he failed to comply with his aide’s instructions. Sometimes this happens several times a day.
The school administrator said he had no knowledge the room was being used. Yet, the administrator was the one that had the room constructed the previous summer for just this purpose.
What can we do legally?
Before you do anything, you need to gather many more facts.
First: Start by asking the 5 W’s + H + E questions. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Explain?
- What is the physical description of the room?
- Under what circumstances was it used?
- What written policies, if any, exist in regard to the use of the room?
Second: Contact the state agency that manages both private and residential psychiatric settings for children. Contact the state mental hospitals where children may be placed. Ask the same questions. Write down the answers. I suspect that you will find very clear, specific, rules and regulations are in place for such time out rooms in those settings.
Next: Consider the differences.
Is there a discrepancy between the school setting and the state managed setting? Ask why?
Question whether the actions by the school system are tantamount to child abuse and warrant investigation by child protective services.
If you go about asking lots of questions, you may be able to open the can of worms and have it all cleaned up by the appropriate agency.
You need to obtain written evidence, information, and documentation. Remember: if something was not written down, it was never said.
You must document the answers to your questions, from whom and when. Write letters requesting information, save all your letters and any responses. Respond to telephone calls with written thank you letters that explain what you understood was said to you in the phone call.
It’s not recommended that you do anything legally, until you have better evidence and a lawyer.