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April 2, 2004

School board responds to complaint about boy in box

From: CBC Edmonton, Canada - Apr 2, 2004

Calgary - An initial review into a special needs student who was placed in a cardboard enclosure as a disciplinary measure says parents should be made aware of the strategies being used.

Adam Shawchuk's mother arrived in his St. Helena classroom earlier this month to find him with cardboard around his desk so he couldn't see anyone, and no one could see him. Shawchuk, 16, has Down syndrome and is deaf, using sign language to communicate. The substitute teacher told Adam's parents he wasn't co-operating.

The Catholic School Board said 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.

Judy MacKay, superintendent of instruction with the board, says she won't speak specifically about the Shawchuks' situation, but that as far as she knows the partitions have never been used to surround a child.

The review into the Shawchuks' concerns was vague and didn't address the issues they had with their son's treatment.

MacKay says the board tries to make parents aware of the individual programs designed for special needs students.

"Time out might have a couple of different looks to it," she said. "It might be a focus centre, it might be going down the hall for a glass of water, or those kinds of things. So there might be a broad strategy and then particulars under that that would be part of the discussion normally with parents."

The Shawchuks want an aplogy from the substitute teacher who used the enclosure and will respond to the board's review next week.

Copyright © CBC 2004