LEXINGTON (CBS) – The father of a former Lexington public school student says his daughter is still traumatized by memories from six years ago. He says her kindergarten teachers kept her in a small padded isolation room.
“Nothing in the room, no chair, no table, no books, nothing for her to do except stand there for up to an hour at a time,” says Bill Lichtenstein.
His complaint lead to a settlement in which the school paid nearly $400,000. As part of the deal, he agreed not to speak publicly about it. Now, he says he’s ready to break the deal. “Everything about this matter is public. Public school, safety and welfare of children, I can’t imagine anything that should be more public than this,” says Lichtenstein.
He went public with the story in an Op-Ed piece in this weekend’s New York Times, explaining how his daughter had been diagnosed as having slow speech and delayed language.
Lexington School Superintendent, Dr. Paul Ash, gave WBZ a written statement. “The Lexington Public Schools keeps and always has kept meticulous records…I reviewed the logs and based on the detailed contemporaneous notes I read, I found that staff members followed district protocols.”
No one is disputing that an isolation room was used at that time, but a school spokesperson says there would have been an adult outside the room, who would have checked in every five minutes. She also says the Lexington school system does not use an isolation room anymore.
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports
Parents from all over Lexington shared their stories and demanded answers from the school board Tuesday night.
“To the best of my knowledge this district has never secluded a child,” said Superintendent Paul Ash at the meeting. “We do not do that now, we did not do that then.”
Lichtenstein’s letter, caused an uproar, giving other moms and dads the courage to come forward.
“For school officials to deny that this has happened or doesn’t happen, just doesn’t ring true to us,” says David Ernst, the father of a student.
Robert Ernst is a senior at Lexington High School, but when he was in first grade, he says he was also punished in isolation rooms, at length.
“It was very scary!” says Robert. “I would be left in there until I had been deemed calm enough to go back into the regular school building, and they’d just leave me in there for as long as they thought that would take.”
Dr. Jonathan Comer is a BU researcher focusing on ways to handle kids with behavioral disorders. He says time out rooms can be very helpful, but only if they’re used by trained professionals.
He says, “It’s always important that people implementing time out procedures have appropriate training in how to conduct time out procedures.”
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong contributed to this report.