Parents: School’s punishment crossed the line

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NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (KXAN) — A mother’s pictures taken inside an elementary school’s “Focus Room” are causing a stir. Lillian Snowden shared the pictures of her 9-year-old son, Alex, because she has a problem with how staff at Carl Shurz Elementary School, in the New Braunfels ISD, reprimanded her child.

Snowden said Alex’s punishment amounted to no food, no exercise and no bathroom breaks, all while he was forced to remain within a drawn circle inside an isolated, cold room.

“Taking any child, putting him in a freezing cold room, if not freezing, cold enough his hands are in his shirt; after 90 minutes we discovered our child huddled in a corner in hysterics,” said Alex’s father, Trevor.

The Snowdens said Alex is hyperactive, but nothing like the discipline problems the school described. Lillian said the school has refused to work with her to come up with a solution.

“I want to be called every single time Alex is brought into the office,” Lillian said. “I can be here in three minutes.”

Instead, she said Alex was placed in the Focus Room dozens of times, something she only discovered this week. It’s an in-school-suspension procedure they believe is cruel and counterproductive.

“It’s demoralizing,” Trevor said. “As an adult, imagine being told to do that.”

The school said it is investigating the allegations, but can say nothing more because of privacy laws. They added providing a safe and caring environment is their top priority.

Lillian insisted she be allowed to stay with Alex in school the rest of the semester, something the district has rejected. She added Alex will not be attending school the rest of the year if she is not allowed to stay with her son.

As for next school year, “He will be home schooled,” Lillian said.

New Braunfels ISD said they use two different types of rooms during certain situations. Focus Rooms deal with “socialization issues” and improving classroom skills. They also use a “Safe Room.” The district said they are used for children who could be a danger to themselves.

While “Focus Rooms” are not prevalent in other districts, other parts of the country use something similar for disruptive students, called a recovery room.

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