So, there is a dad out there with a mission and a set of signs in muggy heat just trying to be heard. Trying to do what he thinks is right. He reminds me that sometimes, there is a firm line between right and wrong and that silence is not always golden. Where is the line between "privacy" and "keeping an abuser's secrets"?
I'll preface my note below by saying that the school system here has been nothing but awesome for my kids, and has been receptive to criticism and open to change since the incident in 2010, but the fact remains that I doubt this kid's parents know what happened to their boy and I should have made it public two years ago. I owe those parents an apology for not calling the cops to make sure a third-party informed them of what I saw, since the school can't tell me who they are because of "privacy" even though the school knows which kid I'm talking about, even though I don't! I hope I can deliver that apology in person some day.
So, here's part of what I sent to the school back in 2010:
After thinking this over for seven months, figuring out which teacher was involved, and discussing it with my friend Suzi Wickerd, I've decided that it would be best for me to discuss with you the school's policies and procedures regarding the isolation room at Austin School. I would also like to share with you the incident that was witnessed by me, my husband Lee Wessel, and school psychology intern Tammy Klinefelter (not sure of the spelling). I believe Troy Garrett walked back into the room after the child had already been shut into the room and did not witness the actual incident.
In late February, or early March 2010, my husband and I met with Troy and Tammy in the area behind the stage at Austin School to review the results of an autism evaluation for my daughter, Rejeanne. At the tail end of this meeting, Troy excused himself to go make a photocopy of the evaluation and left the room. While he was making photocopies, a teacher (we believe this to be Jean Hansen after looking at photos on the district website) dragged a child up the stairs to the isolation room. This event was incredibly shocking to both my husband and I. Given that we grew up out of state, we had never heard of such treatment towards children or of isolation rooms being employed in the public school setting. I had no knowledge that what I thought was an equipment room/closet was used to isolate children at your school. Not only that, but the way that Ms. Hansen treated the child was lacking in dignity and may have resulted in physical harm to the boy.
In detail, I observed Ms. Hansen literally drag a screaming blond boy by one arm up the stairs to the behind-stage area. This child was not on his feet at all. He had one arm held straight up by Ms. Hansen and his other arm wrapped around her leg. He was screaming and begging her not to put him in the room. Ms. Hansen said nothing to the child. She got to the room, opened the door, light on, and walked into the room dragging this boy along all the way into the room. She then started backing out of the room, with the boy still wrapped on her leg, screaming and begging. She shook her leg vigorously to detach the boy from her leg and started closing the door. He started screaming and begging more to the point of hyperventilating. She used her foot to shove the boy further into the room enough so that she could shut the door (much like you would with a dog), and did shut the door.
At that point, Ms. Hansen turned to us and addressed us like nothing happened. I don’t know what she said because frankly I was stunned by what I had just witnessed. My husband, Tammy, and I just basically stood there staring at her. I believe I finally asked her what was going on here or possibly if she does this often. Troy returned right as I started asking Ms. Hansen questions about this room and hurried my husband and I out of the room.