MARYSVILLE, Wash. -- Marysville school officials are investigating whether teachers dragged a child into a closet as punishment.
Two special education staff members at Marshall Elementary School were placed on paid leave after a parent of a special needs second grader claimed the teachers used a closet as a time-out room. The parent described it as a type of broom closet used to discipline her daughter.
The district says an independent investigation is under way.
Angi Wilson knows to keep a close eye on her adopted daughter, Katie, a happy, energetic 7-year-old who's special needs can sometimes pose special challenges. Katie has fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD and a mild form of autism. Her teachers say she is destructive. So on at least one occasion, Wilson says Katie spent two hours in the so-called time-out room.
"How is that justified," questioned Wilson. "There's no way. I wouldn't want to be in a closet for two hours."
Wilson says the space measures about 3 feet by 6 feet and has boxes and a ladder inside. There is no door, but she says students are contained using a piece of plywood to box them in.
"There's no place to sit, there's no place to cool down. The concept is wrong," said Wilson.
Katie's most recent individualized education plan describes instances where she throws things and hits staff members. But that's news to Wilson.
"Not one incident ever reported to me until now," she said.
Wilson also says her daughter has told her the class paraeducator has hit her, pinched her and pulled her hair. She also recounted an incident where she says she was dragged down the hall to the principal's office by her shirt collar.
Some parents like Lynn Tran say the school is a great place for kids. She doesn’t have a special needs child, but she believes rules are always followed in the classroom.
“If (the allegation) is true, then I’d be shocked,” she said. “There are no closets in the classrooms. The parents most of the time are there. There is no way. I think it’s the kids themselves playing around and put themselves there."
A district spokeswoman describes the room in question as a storage space that was once a hallway connecting two classrooms. Limited supplies and equipment are kept there during the school year.
It’s legal for the school to have a time-out room as long as policies and procedures are followed. Investigators are looking into that too.
District officials say they take the allegation very seriously, but some parents have already formed an opinion.
“That's what it comes down to. If it was their child, would they want a teacher doing that to them?" said Holly Thompson, parent.
The district says if the law was not followed, consequences could be serious or it may mean the teachers will be required to go through additional training.
“I don’t know if it’s true or not. I don’t want it to be true, but if it’s true, they need to be punished," said Tran.
State lawmakers recently passed a bill that allows students to be isolated as long as it meets the child's individualized educational program. The governor has yet to sign the bill.
Wilson wants the paraeducator fired.
"Every parent should have a problem with what they're doing, putting the kids in a room and blocking them in. Everybody should,” she said.
As for Wilson's daughter, Katie, she has been placed in a different classroom with a different teacher and paraeducator. Her mother says in that time, there have been no issues.