A teacher locked a 6-year-old with autism in a storage room, and that’s ‘traumatizing’

Thu, May 25: A teacher who has worked on call in the Nanaimo School District has been suspended after she locked a little boy with autism in a storage room when he had a temper tantrum.


That was how a child psychiatrist described the experience of a six-year-old boy with autism, who was attending a school in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district.

He was placed in a storage room while he was having a tantrum. Then teacher on call Sherri Lee Loewen locked the room and then walked away.

Stories about autism:

The incident took place on Sept. 16, 2016.

The boy, identified in documents only as “Student A,” was having a temper tantrum when the educational assistant (EA) working with him moved him to a storage room that contained books, bookshelves, a table and chairs, according to a decision handed down by the British Columbia Commissioner for Teacher Regulation.

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The EA then left the student with Loewen, who closed the door and locked it with him inside.

She then opened the door to ask the student whether he’d like to play outside. When he yelled at her, she shut the door again.

The door to the storage room had a window, but Loewen didn’t stay there to ensure the student was safe, the decision read.

READ MORE: Babies at higher risk of autism if father is too young or too old: study

The EA then returned to the classroom and found Loewen “some distance from the storage room door.”

She then found the little boy inside, curled up and crying.

Dale Burgos with the school district told Global News that “there are safe spaces set aside called Self-Regulation or Sensory Rooms. In the district, these rooms can be used for a variety of reasons, and school staff are instructed to accompany students while in these rooms.”

Moving a child is the last thing you want to do when a child is flailing and having a temper tantrum, behaviour consultant Amy Tanner told Global News.

“They could cause injury to themselves or to you,” she said. “Leaving them in isolation especially when they’re not supervised could put┬áthe child in serious harm.

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“Children are likely to escalate and start injuring themselves.”

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For her actions, Loewen was suspended from the teacher on call list for four days last year. She was also required to complete a six-hour course titled, “Non-Violent Crisis Intervention.”

Her teaching certificate has also been suspended for an additional two days later this month.

READ MORE: Robots helping to teach students with autism in West Vancouver

Placing a child in solitary like this can be “traumatizing,” child psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang told Global News.

“We know solitary confinement is a really serious psychological threat,” she said.

“It could trigger anxiety, thoughts of depression, worst-case scenario things like post-traumatic stress disorder.”