HUDSON, N.C. -- The Caldwell County School District is investigating claims that a special education teacher forced a child with special needs into a cardboard box as punishment.
"It's a complete lack of dignity, whether he understands it or not," said the student's mother, Joy Amatuccio.
Amatuccio said she was horrified when another parent told her what her 14-year-old son Jacob's teacher at Hudson Middle School was doing to him.
"She asked the teacher what the box was for and said the teacher told her it was for Jacob," recalled Amatuccio. "She would wheel him in there and let down the flap. He was all alone, in the dark, in a box. She used it to calm him down, as a form of time out."
The other parent snapped a photo of the box sitting in the classroom back in mid-April and said the box disappeared about three days later.
"What kind of person puts a child in a box? What kind of person puts a disabled child in a box or any human being in a box," asked Amatuccio.
Amatuccio said the first time she ever heard of the punishment or the box was Monday night. She said when she called the Hudson Middle School principal to report it, he admitted he knew about the time out box.
"He apologized for his negligence in not telling me. He knew Jacob was being put in a box. He said he did what he had to do and got rid of the box. He knew I didn't know about it," said Amatuccio.
Amatuccio said Jacob suffered a traumatic brain injury as a baby and sometimes has outbursts. She said the school has an "Individual Education Plan" that specifies ways to calm him down--like having an aide wheel him around outside or in the halls.
Amatuccio said time out in a box is not a part of that plan.
NewsChannel 36 contacted the Catawba County School District about the situation Tuesday. Community Services Director Libby Brown said the district had been meeting about the allegations earlier in the day.
Brown said that the box is not an approved form of discipline in the Caldwell County School District. She said it is now a personnel issue that is currently under investigation.
Jacob has been placed in a different special needs classroom for the remainder of the year.