AN irate mum has slammed her autistic son’s school after they put him in a padded ‘cell’ for ‘misbehaving’.
Hairdresser Charlene Jones claims year three pupil Lewis was taken to the windowless room after climbing on a table.
Lewis, 7, who has suspected autism and a serious heart condition, was shut in the room – which was “the size of a cupboard” and empty at the time.
Staff at Aldermoor Farm Primary School reportedly told Charlene the door was held closed for ten minutes “for his own safety” until his gran, Pat Gardener, came to collect him.
She claims to have found the lad wearing no shoes, socks or t-shirt, bright red and desperately kicking at the door to get out as a teacher held it shut.
Lewis, who suffers from aortic stenosis which means he has restricted blood flow and is exempt from PE, was rushed to the doctors for a check-up.
Luckily, medics said the lad was fine, but Charlene, 31, has blasted the school, in Coventry, West Midlands, for using the room – which she likened to a “police cell” – to control pupils.
The horrified mum-of-three said: “I didn’t know this room existed and I didn’t give my permission for Lewis to be put in there.
“It’s a padded room for when children lash out. They told me he was in there for ten minutes but you don’t know.”
Charlene, who requested the school send her photos of the room after she found out what happened, said: “I’m really not happy about it.
“Lewis isn’t allowed to do PE or anything that could make his heart race and I’m sure being locked in a room would make his heart race.
“He was very upset afterwards and he said he didn’t want to go back to school or into that room.
“If I put him in a room and locked the door it wouldn’t be acceptable, so why is it acceptable for them?
“Normally you would speak to a child and try to help them calm down, not this.
“They need to try a different approach because it can’t be good for their mental health.
“Other parents need to be fully aware of what is going to happen if their children misbehave.”
Lewis is believed to be autistic but doctors have not confirmed it, and Charlene says she’s been told it will be two years before a conclusive diagnosis can be made.
At school, he wears ear plugs because he can’t stand loud noises but doesn’t get any extra support and is in a mainstream class.
Charlene said Lewis became unsettled on the day of the incident during a class with a substitute teacher.
He panicked and started running around, shouting, crying and climbing on tables.
Staff said they had tried to call Charlene on her mobile but couldn’t get through, so kept him there for his safety and phoned his grandma.
Pat, 50, said: “When I got there, there was a teacher holding the door and Lewis was in there. He was going mad, kicking the door.
“They opened it and I went in there to calm him down. He had no shoes on, no t-shirt and he was really red and agitated.
“I was gobsmacked, mortified. I have never known for something like this to happen. He said he got put in there and there was no way for him to get out.”
She added: “I don’t know if it was a punishment but I can’t see any reason why they would have put him in there.
“It was this little, square room which was padded. It reminded me of a police cell.”
Charlene has since let Lewis return to the school after the incident on December 14 because he’s desperate to be with his friends and she doesn’t want to disrupt his schooling any more.
But she said despite meeting with the headteacher and a care plan being drawn up for Lewis, she has not received an apology.
Use of seclusion rooms is deemed by critics to be a breach of Article 5 of the Human Rights Act – the right to liberty and security.
Department of Health guidance from 2014 states that seclusion should not be used as either a treatment or a punishment.
The Department of Education says it is down to councils to govern schools’ use of such rooms, but added that they should communicate with parents and guardians.
Ann Stacey, headteacher at Aldermoor Farm Primary School, said: “Our team are highly skilled in dealing with many children with additional needs and we work hard to make sure we maintain a learning environment that supports the welfare and safety of all our children at all times.
“Very occasionally we have to deal with violent and disruptive behaviour and our first priority is to safeguard and protect other pupils and staff at the school, as well as the child involved.
“On these occasions we have a safe place at the school to help calm children down.
“Any child that is placed in the room is fully supervised by two qualified members of staff and parents are informed.”
She added that “several attempts” were made to contact the family.
A Coventry City Council spokesperson said: “The Local Authority is assured that this school has exemplified best practice in supporting a child with complex needs to remain safe, during an episode of high anxiety.”
They added that the school has proved they did “all they reasonably could” to contact the family and “used their professional judgement to deal with the situation”.
The spokesperson added: “The professionally-delivered interventions in this case are an example of the exemplary inclusion practice at Aldermoor Farm Primary School.”
The school was rated “good” in its latest Ofsted inspection, in June 2015.
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