Matt's Memo: Time Out Room, Time is Over

Time out room at Fourth Street School, Fulton.

The time out room at the Fourth Street School in Fulton looks more like a closet or even more precisely a restricted space you might find in a maximum security prison. Our award winning investigative reporter Jim Kenyon told the story on our air tonight. He talked with 9 year old Jenna Lewis. Her big blue eyes filled with sadness and confusion as she described the concrete floor, confined space and darkness of the room.

Jenna TMs mother took some photos of the bruising and injuries she claims she suffered while spending time in the room. The school is run by the Oswego BOCES program which offers alternative learning locations for children with special needs. Kenyon TMs report described the rooms as the rooms at the Fourth Street School are nothing more than small barren closets, with no lighting, no furniture and a door without an inside handle. The rooms violate several sections of New York State law which is designed to protect those who need the greatest protection.

A surprise inspection by the State Education Department last week led to an immediate closure. The head of BOCES in Oswego County refused to do an interview about the rooms. He told Jim Kenyon, we will be reviewing what is needed to make sure these rooms are safe and fully compliant with all regulations, and reviewing and updating if necessary, our internal procedures as to when to use such time out rooms."

What is there to review? These dark and dangerous broom closets violate the law. They should be never used again. The BOCES Board of Education should compel the superintendent to end their use. The teachers at the school should demand the end of their use. Parents who have students there should call, email and protest to make sure they are not used again. The State Education Department should consider further action against those running the school.

Our story has greater detail including links to the state report and the written comment from BOCES. These special needs students may indeed need a space to calm down or be taken from the greater classroom. If they have to be removed it should be for their safety and well being and perhaps at times the safety of others. They should not be locked away in a traumatizing dark closet. How could this have gone on for as long as it did? Children like Jenna Lewis deserve much better.

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