D11 Investigation into Treatment of Disabled Children

By: Nora Seibert/KKTV 11 News
By: Nora Seibert/KKTV 11 News

A School District 11 investigation into the treatment of elementary students with disabilities has wrapped up without any disciplinary action against D-11 staff. Still several parents of the students in the class say something still needs to be done. The concerns surround the use of the time-out room in the school.

According to the Colorado Department of Education guidelines time-out rooms are acceptable in public schools. But, according to the rules the time-out room should only be used with extreme caution. Some parents don’t believe that’s how Rogers Elementary School has been using its time-out room.

"She was trying to tell me they hadn't given her lunch, she had to pee and they wouldn't let her out," said Julie Rhuby.

Her 10-year-old daughter has an emotional disability. She says the disability comes from a brain deformity.

Rhuby says her daughter was misbehaving in the classroom. She says her daughter told her she was put in the time-out room of Rogers Elementary School for a long time.

"She'd been in that room for 3, 31/2 hours,” said Rhuby. “She hadn't been given lunch what so ever and that she had been sitting those urine soaked pants at least an hour and a half."

"It was a nightmare for my son, it was a nightmare for other kids," said Shannon Steiner.

Steiner's stepson is also in the special class for students with emotional disabilities. She says he was never put in the time-out room. But, she took pictures of the room she claims was used for time-out. She says her son had to watch as his classmates were put in there.

"You can hear kids screaming. You can hear kids crying," said Steiner.

A former employee of the school, who didn't want to be identified, says he witnessed kids spending hours in the room.

"Some of the kids I know for a fact went home without eating anything that whole day, other than breakfast that morning," he said.

Linda Murt was a social worker at Rogers Elementary. Her contract with the school was not renewed after this year. Although she won’t be back at the school next year, she says she still worries for the safety of the students.

"Children were not treated well, they were put in time out for long periods of time,” said Murt. “Food was withheld from these children, they were not allowed to go to the bathroom."

District 11 spokeswoman Elaine Naleski says the district took the allegations seriously and investigated. But, she says the district can't tell the parents or the public the results of the investigation because of privacy laws to protect the students and staff.

"There was an investigation. The investigation is over. No one has received any disciplinary action because of the investigation. So, that means there wasn't any substantial evidence in the investigation to do any disciplinary actions against anyone," said Naleski.

Naleski says the school will be making changes next year, like better advising parents of the time-out procedures and further training staff.

"They've looked at the procedures, refining the procedures for use of the lab. They know they need more training of their staff, on the lab and how it’s used, and they're putting those procedures in place for next year," said Naleski.

Naleski says the district does not have its own guidelines on the use of the time-out room, so they follow the state guidelines. According to the Colorado Department of Education, there are 2 sets of rules. One set of rules is in the case of an emergency, which gives no time limit to how long a child can be locked in a room. The other gives a twelve-minute limit, if the time-out is used for a legitimate educational function.

"I do believe that in the situation, these people did make the best decisions they could possibly make. We're just going to look at those procedures and decisions to make sure the parents are in agreement and understand," said Naleski.

She says the district does use the time-out room to protect students and staff, especially when a student's behavior melts-down into kicking, biting or clawing.

"You have to consider the safety of the teacher and the other students," said Naleski.

But some parents still say there's a better way.

"It boarder-lined abuse, is what I think," said Steiner.

"That kind of breaks my heart, because I keep telling her, the lab is her safe place to go when things get bad," said Rhuby.


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