SILVER CREEK — An investigation into an alleged “isolation cell” at the Silver Creek Elementary School shows no evidence that any student was struck, manhandled or assaulted in any way.
That according to Melanie Beardsley, who briefed the school board Thursday evening on her findings and recommendations regarding the issue of the de-escalation room. In addition, Beardsley from legal firm Webster Szanyi LLC, noted the district does not have a board policy or any other written policies or procedures detailing the use of the room and must develop and implement policies and procedures, which include the physical and monitoring requirements, parental rights, and educational requirements for students with disabilities if it uses a time out room.
The district announced the results on its Facebook page Friday morning.
Board President Stephen Boothe concurred with Beardsley’s findings. “As a result of this investigation, it is clear to us that some of our children absolutely need a safe space to de-escalate, calm down, and with the help of administrators and staff, prepare for a safe return to the classroom,” he said. “We have an obligation to each and every child in the district to do whatever we can to give all of our students access to the best education possible. From the investigation, it is clear to us that de-escalation or sensory rooms, and perhaps both, can serve as vital tools in that regard. As a board, we acknowledge that no matter what, we must develop and implement policies and procedures with respect to such rooms. This will be a priority. In the meantime, the use of the room remains suspended.”
This room first became an issue in late March when district administrator Jay Hall sent a four-page letter to the Board of Education outlining allegations regarding the space in late March. He has since been put on administrative leave. Additionally, the district noted, Hall was refusing to meet with investigators to discuss the allegations.
Beardsley said 34 people were reached out for interviews, including the parents and guardians of each student named in the letter. Overall, 28 people spoke with the law firm on the topic and over 215 documents were analyzed in the process, along with several videos.
“All district administrators, teachers and staff fully cooperated with the investigation,” Beardsley said. “Certain parents and community members did as well.
“On the other hand, Jay Hall and his brother, Rich Hall, refused to cooperate in the investigation. With regard to Jay Hall, on multiple occasions we requested that he meet with us, and we offered various accommodations to encourage him to participate. We also requested that he provide us with all information and documents he has related to his claims. He refused.”
Beardsley said that Rich Hall, an attorney himself, is representing four families who are bringing claims against the district. After learning that these families were represented by counsel, Beardsley said they requested interviews and information, but Rich Hall refused to allow them to cooperate.
Boothe admitted plenty of work remains in moving the district forward. “At this point, the investigation is complete; our job is not,” he said. “The work of the Board has just begun. With the help of our community, our great team of teachers, administrators, and staff, we will continue to be a school district of which we can all be proud.”
According to Beardsley’s findings, part of that work for the board will be having written policies and procedures that outline uses of the de-escalation room. These policies minimally must include prohibiting placing a student in a locked room or space or in a room where the student cannot be continuously observed and supervised; factors which may precipitate the use of the time out room; time limitations for the use of the time out room; staff training on the policies and procedures related to the use of time out room; data collection to monitor the effectiveness of the use of time out rooms; and information to be provided to parents.
“The district must develop and implement policies and procedures, which include the physical and monitoring requirements, parental rights, and (Individualized Education Plan) requirements for students with disabilities if it uses a time out room,” she said.
Boothe addressed that in his statement, saying they will work with their attorneys to match those policies, and they want community input on things going forward. Boothe added a statement of gratitude for the concern within the district.
“The board plans to invite the community to take part in this process and will be asking volunteers to serve on a committee to study this issue and make recommendations to the Board,” he said. “Before we open any room for use, we envision an open house where parents can see all of the rooms in their child’s school. Parents are always welcome at Silver Creek schools.”