Heights Charter School Puts Kids in “Calm Down Room”

January 22, 2014

NightmareroomA charter school located in Washington Heights, New York is coming under great scrutiny for the way they choose to discipline children who misbehave.

KIPP Star Washington Heights Elementary School is being accused of detaining two young boys in a room that is so small, that it’s been described as a small walk-in closet.  The so-called “calm-down” room is equipped with a soft mat that sits on the floor and a single light that hangs from the ceiling. The room’s only window is 2×3 and sits on the door allowing staff members to look in.  The students are usually placed in the room for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

The two boys, one kindergartner and a first grader, were reportedly traumatized after they were locked in the room.  Their parents claim they suffered from anxiety after this unusual punishment.

One mother, Teneka Hall, said, “He (her child) was crying hysterically.  It’s no way to treat a child.”


Her son was rushed to the hospital after suffering from an anxiety attack from being locked in the room.  Teneka immediately pulled him out of KIPP and enrolled him in another school.

Another parent, Richard Betonces Sr. said his son suffered from the same fate minus the visit to the emergency room.

Betonces stated, “It was like being locked in jail. He was crying every day, scared he was going back.  It’s made his mother depressed as well. It’s a terrible thing.”


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He further said that his son now suffers from panic attacks.

“State law requires that children placed in a time-out setting be in a space where they can be seen and heard ‘continuously,’ but it does not require adults to be in the room where children are stashed.”

Josh Zoia, KIPP NYC Superintendent said, “Like most schools we use time-outs as a way to make sure students remain safe. The calm-down room is used only as part of a behavior plan which was both developed in collaboration with and approved by the parents.”

School officials state that the padded chambers were created on the advice of child psychologists, and further, they discussed using the tactic with the parents beforehand.

For now, state education officials will reach out to KIPP to discuss this matter further (source).

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