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A dozen parents address Independence School Board about isolation room concerns

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Parents took their concerns about isolation rooms to the Independence School Board Tuesday night. A dozen parents spoke out against the rooms during a public forum and during a closed-door meeting with the board.

“I get more depressed and more enraged than when I first get in there,” said 7th grade student Andy Porter, who said he has been put in an isolation room more than seven times. Porter has autism, and said the room is uncomfortable for him.

“Personally, I am traumatized by it,” he told FOX 4. Porter admitted he wasn’t obeying his teacher, but said he doesn’t think an isolation room should be his punishment. “I have showed physical aggression or I have been cursing a lot,” he said.

Parents at the school board meeting said children like Porter should face a different punishment.

However, school district staff said the isolation rooms are not for punishment but for safety.

“The room has been vital in order to keep the child safe and remove them from other classmates who may get traumatized or scared by the child going into crisis,” said a recovery interventionist with the school district.

Staff said they have used the rooms for more than a decade, and for more than three years in elementary schools. They said a child sits in an empty room to calm down while a staff member watches them through a window from the other side.

The group of concerned parents started a petition and are calling for leadership changes at Mill Creek Elementary School, that’s one of 15 schools in the district that uses the isolation rooms.