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North Texas "Scream" Room Sparks Investigation and Staff Retraining



    Mother Outraged Over School Discipline in Mansfield

    School discipline in the Mansfield ISD has sparked outrage after a mom posted a picture of a "scream room" from her son's school on NBCDFW's Facebook page. Bridget Villegas says her 7-year-old son Edwin has repeatedly been dragged into the room that she says is more like jail cell. (Published Monday, April 14, 2014)

    An investigation and school staff retraining have been ordered after a parent complained about her 7-year-old child's repeated confinement in a closet-like room at his Mansfield Independent School District campus.

    Bridget Villegas said her son Edwin is autistic, bipolar and has behavior issues. Villegas said she visited the special education program her son attends at Annette Perry Elementary School Friday after his latest confinement in what some people call a “scream" room, since that’s what kids are often doing when teachers put them there.

    “He’s at that school specifically because they’re supposed to know how to deal with him better than other places and it just seems like it’s gone really wrong there,” Villegas said. “He had been scratched on the hand during a transport where four teachers actually kind of manhandled him to this room.”

    Mansfield ISD calls it a calm room or blue room.

    “I would have expected a Zen kind of calm down type of room or what have you, and what we saw was a concrete looking jail room,” Villegas said.

    Villegas now has school records showing Edwin had been placed in the room 21 times this school year, school officials told her on Friday.

    “In the beginning, they hold the door shut so he can’t get out, but that it was OK because they can see him in the little glass window at the top of the door,” she said.

    Villegas took pictures of the room and posted them online after her visit. A friend of Villegas posted a photo on the NBC 5 Facebook page. She found the many other people were outraged about the room. 

    “I wouldn’t want to be locked in there either, so I can’t blame him,” Villegas said.

    Rules forbid locking a child in such a room. A school official pointed out that the picture Villegas took showed the door has no locking mechanism.

    Still, Villegas said Edwin attended first grade in the Alvarado Independent School District last year and had none of these problems.

    “I am angry," Villegas said. "I’m angry because he’s withdrawn. He has regressed.”

    Villegas said she and her husband intend to withdraw Edwin from Mansfield ISD and find a better school for his special education needs.

    “I’m not putting all the blame on the teachers,” she said. “I’m kind of putting the blame on the district itself for allowing these kind of things to go on.”

    Mansfield spokesman Richie Escovedo provided the following response by email:

    Mansfield ISD officials are aware of an issue raised at Perry Elementary and are working to address the situation with the parent involved. 
    • District administrators are conducting an investigation into the concern at the campus.
    • The Department of Special Education has scheduled de-escalation retraining for Perry Elementary School staff related to the SUCCESS program in the proper use of behavior management techniques in a crisis situation and providing appropriate documentation for parents.

    It is the policy of Mansfield ISD to treat all students with dignity and respect, including students with disabilities who receive special education services. Any behavior management technique and/or discipline management practice must be implemented in such a way as to protect the health and safety of the student and others.

    The District uses the blue rooms (and calm rooms) as behavior management method of last-resort for timeout if other methods do not de-escalate a situation and a student becomes a danger to him/herself or others. State and local policy addresses timeout as a behavior management technique in which, to provide a student with an opportunity to regain self-control, the student is separated from other students for a limited period in a separate setting that is not locked and from which the exit is not physically blocked by furniture, a closed door held shut from the outside, or another inanimate object.

    Necessary documentation regarding the use of timeout, if any, is addressed in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).