(Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)
The end of last week (Aug. 2, 3) Denver Public Schools board members Auon’tai Anderson, Scott Esserman and Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán accused Kurt Dennis, former principal of McAuliffe International School, of using a room in the school for “seclusion” in which a troubled and disruptive student is left alone with the door closed to calm down instead of as a “de-escalation” room where a student is accompanied by a staff member and the door remains open.
The room was used less than a handful of times last year, according to school staff. District officials did not include any parents of students who used the room in their public criticisms of the issue.
Below a mother of one of those students explains her son’s experience with the de-escalation room, communication from the school on its use and how the McAuliffe staff has treated her son with compassion and care. The message is posted anonymously to avoid identifying the student.
(The mother’s story was supplied by Eve Chen, an organizer of a petition drive on Change.org to have Dennis reinstated as McAuliffe principal. The petition goal is 7,500 signatures. It currently has nearly 6,200. Click here for the Change.org post.)
“To Whom It May Concern,
I was recently made aware that the article concerning the de-escalation room at McAuliffe was referring to situations involving only two children, one of those being my son (who happens to be white). I am incredibly upset with the DPS superintendent and school board for using my son’s challenging situation, without even consulting me for confirmation of stated details or information about our experience at McAuliffe.
Our son has battled with emotional dysregulation his entire life as a result of multiple medical and developmental diagnoses. He is a funny, loving and inquisitive boy with an occasional tendency to escalate quickly and intensely in certain situations, unfortunately becoming physical, which could place himself and others at risk. He hates feeling out of control, and when this happens, he appreciates having this designated space to de-escalate and eventually return to feeling “himself”. He is capable of providing details of events when I am not
there and he has never made a negative comment about this safe space or the staff members who have helped him there (with physical support when necessary) when he needs it.
My son requires use of this room infrequently, and each time he does, I am contacted by phone, both during the episode and after he has calmed and resumed his day. I can tell you the staff members have only shown us support, compassion and empathy, and they listen to my son’s request to be alone in the room with the door closed. They have always provided supervision through the window of the door to ensure his safety.
As a parent of a child with challenges that are heart-wrenching at times, to be part of our neighborhood school and greater community means the world to us. What is our alternative? To keep him sheltered because of occasional escalations that are handled in a way he prefers, which keeps him safe? We’ve worked with a team of professionals to meet various goals throughout his life and his progress is nothing short of amazing. Our son is a happy guy who appreciates the little things in life more than most people we know. Nonetheless, we take all of
this very seriously and our hard work continues.
Our family only has the most positive things to say about McAuliffe and all of the staff members supporting our son. In addition to going above and beyond for him on a daily basis, they make him feel valued and loved for the unique individual he is. I wish DPS would have taken a moment to reach out to us to learn about our situation before using it in their political agenda against the school.”