A controversial opinion piece was published in the New York Times recently. In the piece, the writer describes a horrible situation that happened to his daughter, a kindergartener, who had been placed into an isolation room at school. Years later, an investigation into the situation has been started, and a lawsuit has been filed.
This is a confusing story. It started when Bill Lichtenstein wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times. In his writing, he discussed the problems with using isolation rooms as a form of discipline in schools. Some have described these rooms as “scream rooms” because the children placed into them tend to scream, and their voices carry down the hallways at the school.
It is my understanding the the purpose of an isolation room was to provide a safe place for a child who has gotten out of control to calm himself or herself down. Not every school uses this form of discipline anymore. Those that do use it with children who are part of a Special Education program.
In Mr. Lichtenstein’s opinion piece, he describes a horrible situation that happened to his daughter in 2006. She was a kindergartener at the time. He said that the school called him to come pick her up after she had disrobed and urinated in an isolation room, and claimed that his daughter was still in the isolation room, and naked, when he arrived at the school. He goes on to point out how this experience, combined with her other experiences being put into an isolation room, have negatively affected his daughter.
Questions arose after this opinion piece was published. The editor who put it into the New York Times noted some discrepancies between what Mr. Lichtenstein said about what happened to his daughter and what the school records recorded.
The editor noted that a settlement has been reached between the Lexington school district and the Lichtensteins in 2007. The editor also pointed out that Mr. Lichtenstein’s ex-wife was now the custodial parent of their daughter.
There is now a state investigation into the alleged mistreatment of special needs students within the Lexington Public Schools. After the opinion piece was posted, a second family came forward at a School committee meeting to share her story about her son being left in a “quiet room” in 2008. A third family shared a similar story with the local news. The third family wants to be included in the review.
Image by Pedro Cambra on Flickr