SILVER CREEK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Silver Creek Superintendent Todd Crandall has released a video statement following claims officials are locking children inside an “isolation room.” But some parents are left with more questions than answers.
“It’s all a bunch of hogwash—he’s playing with words,” said Deborah Steiner, grandmother of a first-grader at Silver Creek Elementary, who said she’s outraged.
Crandall said the room is meant for de-escalation, and is a place where students can “gather their thoughts and composure so that they are able to safely re-join their peers in the classroom.” Crandall released pictures showing the outside of the room, which he called well-ventilated. The room has two large windows which face the inside of one of the school’s administrative offices. “It is by no means intended, nor has it ever been used, as a form of punishment or negative implications,” Crandall said.
But a recent letter sent to the district’s board of education paints a different picture. Silver Creek’s assistant director of elementary programming, Jay Hall, compared the room to a jail-like cell. In the letter, Hall also claimed children as young as five-years-old were being blockaded or locked inside the room, pleading with staff members to be let out. Lisa Gloyd’s nephew was named in that letter; she said he’s now afraid to go to school.
“The use of the room itself is not terrible, but in the way that they are using the room is what makes it bad,” Gloyd said. “For a small child between 5 to 7, to be left in a room for hours at a time—that’s more like torture. That’s more like jail. That’s not going to help them at all.”
Crandall said students were never locked in the room. In a statement to NEWS10’s sister station Buffalo, he said it can be locked from the outside, but can always be opened by someone inside the room. He also said an investigator from the New York State Police inspected the room earlier today and raised no concerns as to the safety of the room.
“I’m sorry, that’s not a sensory perception room. That is not a kid-friendly room. That is not a room where a child should be sent to,” Steiner said. “You’re going to put a 5-year-old in that room, with nothing in it but that dangerous bed, and think they’re going to de-escalate? I think not. I know, I deal with my grandson, with my granddaughter, that’s not going to happen. No way that’s not going to happen.”
Parents learned of the de-escalation room after Hall wrote a letter to the school board claiming students were being locked in the room. He was placed on administrative leave since sending the letter. His attorney, Tom Eoannou, said Hall has also received a cease and desist letter from the district preventing him from further speaking about the situation.
“It’s a very aggressive approach given the allegations,” Eoannou said. “Until such time when we can get in front of a judge, we will abide by the condition of the letter. We will not comment publicly. But, this allegation will certainly run its course through the Department of Education.”
The superintendent said that never happened. He added that de-escalation rooms are “a widely accepted method of addressing the needs of children.”
Michael Cornell, the president of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association, said schools typically have a place to calm students down. “In Hamburg, it’s in our school psychologist office, social workers office,” Cornell said. “When a child needs a moment to gather him or herself, we have the student, you know, we take the child, maybe into a different space, where we can work with the child where the child does not have the prying eyes of his or her classmates on that conversation.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the state’s education department said they could not confirm or deny “the existence of investigations” in order to protect the fairness and integrity of their processes.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, “every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of seclusion” and “restraint or seclusion should not be used as routine school safety measures.”