SILVER CREEK, N.Y. (WIVB) — An upstate New York school superintendent released a video statement Tuesday following claims officials locked children inside an “isolation room” as punishment.
Silver Creek Superintendent Todd 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 painted 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 5 years old were being blockaded or locked inside the room, while 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 Nexstar affiliate News 4, 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 Tuesday and raised no concerns as to the safety of the room.
Hall has been placed on administrative leave since sending his letter to the board. 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.”
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.