Teen injured in alternative school safe room

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ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - A St. Peters mother is calling for a statewide review of how schools construct and use time-out safe rooms.  This comes just a day after her 8th grade son nearly severed an artery when he slammed his fist through an observation window in a safe room door at Heritage Landing Alternative School in the Francis Howell School District.

A school educator who was observing the teen through the window suffered an injury to his eye when the glass broke into shards.

“When I saw the doorway with the glass my heart just kind of stopped, just kind of scared me really bad,” the boy’s mother Lesley Joubert said Tuesday.  The door window shattered when her 13-year-old son broke it with his fist  during what she called an emotional “meltdown.”  Doctors used 22 stitches to close three large cuts on his right hand and arm.

The boy has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, a form of autism, and emotional disturbances brought on by the disability.  She had authorized use of the time out room because in the past it had helped her son calm down.  Joubert said teachers at the school told her the glass was shatterproof.

She also questioned the construction of the room which she said was the size of a small office.  “I was kind of appalled to see it was not padded. I was always under the assumption they were padded.”

She praised the teachers and school nurse for responding quickly to her son’s injuries.  “They do an excellent job of working with students who are not mainstream students,” Joubert added.

Tuesday she wondered how other school districts handle time-out rooms. “If we are to continue the use of these rooms, I think there need to be laws and standards.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offers guidance on seclusion and restraint policies for school districts.  But DESE staff said they were “not aware of any specific Missouri laws that set structural requirements for safe rooms in public schools.”

Francis Howell School District issued a general statement about the use of isolation rooms.  Such rooms, the district said, “may be used on rare occasions when a student with a disability is a danger to himself/herself or others.  It is used as a last resort and is never used as a form of punishment.”  Use of such rooms must be part of the particular student’s behavior plan and the involved staff members are to be trained in “Non-Violent Crisis Prevention.”  A district spokesperson said, “Each incident of isolation is reviewed by administration to ensure adherence to district policy.”


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