IM this article to a friend!

March 31, 2004

School sits 'unco-operative' boy in box

From: CBC Calgary, Canada - Mar 31, 2004

Calgary - The parents of a 16-year-old boy with Down Syndrome have pulled him from school after he was put inside a cardboard box as a disciplinary measure.

Adam Shawchuk's mother arrived in his St. Helena classroom to find him with cardboard around his desk so he couldn't see anyone, and no one could see him. "When I got in the classroom further, I noticed an aide closing a cardboard enclosure and walking away from it, and as she walked away it kind of popped open and inside the enclosure was my son Adam," Betty Shawchuk said.

Adam, who is also deaf and in a special education classroom, uses sign language to communicate.

"I said to the principal this would be like putting duct tape over your eyes and earplugs in your ears and then being barred under your desk," father Terry Shawchuk said.

The substitute teacher told Betty Shawchuk that Adam hadn't been co-operating.

Judy MacKay, superintendent of instruction with the Calgary Catholic Centre, says the cardboard partitions are called "focus centres" and are used in special education classes to calm students or to prevent them from becoming distracted from their work. However, they're only supposed to be two or three-sided, she says.

Bruce Uditsky, with the Association for Community Living, says while a teacher may want to reduce stimulation in a classroom, it should be done in a helpful, constructive and educational way.

"I don't know of any evidence anywhere that one way to do that is to put children in boxes," he said.

The Shawchuks want an apology and assurances the box will never be used again. They say they were told – after several meetings – that the staff involved would apologize, but not in front of the parents.

The Shawchuks say that's unacceptable and won't send Adam back to the school.

Copyright © CBC 2004