HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Henrico County mother claims her 4-year-old daughter was isolated from classmates multiple times without her knowledge.
8News is not identifying the mom to protect the child, but she tells us, “Mom, I don’t want to go to Highland Springs Elementary, it has a jail room. They are going to put me in the jail.”
‘A jail room’ is how mom says the pre-kindergarten student at Highland Springs Elementary described her first school experience.
“She was literally afraid to go there,” she says.
At first, mom didn’t know what it meant. Her daughter has a medically documented hearing sensitivity to loud noises. Mom says she had made the school aware of it, as well as some best practices for when she becomes rattled by a loud noise. On the very first day of class, however, there was an incident and she was asked to pick up her child. When mom arrived, she found her in a small room and mom snapped photos.
“Very small room with cement walls, cinder block, cement walls with a mat on the floor. No books, no toys, no nothing,” she told 8News.
Mom says she knew of one other incident during that first week of school where her child was placed in what she calls a ‘seclusion room.’
“At that time it looked like they were using it for storage,” she explained. “It had a lot of oak furniture in there, but I did see a mat on the floor.”
It wasn’t until her daughter starting fussing about going to school and referring to school as a ‘jail’ that she became concerned. During a conference call with school officials, she and her child’s advocate started asking questions, but they got little answers.
“I explained that to administrators that she was afraid to go to school,” mom said.
Officials couldn’t tell her how many times her daughter had been isolated in that room with a mat. Eventually, she was provided with the teacher’s daily log where she found several mentions of a “calming room” or “meditation room.” She says that’s when she discovered her child had been pulled from her classroom and isolated from her classmates on several occasions without her knowledge.
“I have highlighted eight, specifically,” she said.
Andy Jenks, a spokesman for Henrico schools tells 8News, “We’re currently involved in a due process hearing regarding this student, so it would be appropriate to withhold further comment about the particulars of that matter at this time. We will present the facts to the hearing officer. As a school division, Henrico County Public Schools is committed to providing our students with a safe and supportive educational environment, and working together with our families to do what’s best for children.”
8News was also told sometimes students are escorted to a ‘calm down room’ to diffuse a situation. We are told no student is ever left alone. Other schools officials on that conference call stressed that as well. Mom shared the tapes with 8News and they say, “She has staff members with her, she was not alone.”
When 8News asked why the mother wasn’t told about the other ‘calm down room’ incidents, we were told that can depend on the relationship or communication between the teacher and the parent.
The response from Henrico Schools does little to ease moms concerns.
”It’s inhumane to treat anyone that way, especially a little kid who doesn’t understand what’s happening to them,” she said.
Mom told 8News she asked the teacher about her child every day.
“No one told me that she was being placed there. It’s hurtful and I am angry about it. Henrico County Public Schools, I think, they need to do better.”
Mom has since pulled her child from the school.