Recapping the LPS "Seclusion Room" Controversy Thus Far
From the publication of shocking allegations to competing statements to calls for an independent investigation and beyond.
In recent days, the Lexington community has been abuzz over allegations of the mistreatment six years ago of a special needs student.
First came the opinion piece published by the New York Times in which former Lexington resident Bill Lichtenstein claimed his daughter, then a 5-year-old kindergartener enrolled as the Fiske School, “was kept in a seclusion room for up to an hour at a time over the course of three months, until we discovered what was happening.” That discovery, Lichtenstein alleges, was on Jan. 6, 2006, when he and the girl’s mother found their daughter standing naked and alone “on the cement floor of a basement mop closet, illuminated by a single light bulb.”
Next came the school district’s response, in which Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash said, after a review of “detailed contemporaneous notes” he found that staff members followed district protocols during the days in question. That was Monday.
On Tuesday, Lichtenstein fired back with a statement of his own. And, later that night, parents and School Committee members called for an independent investigation to bridge the gap between Lichtenstein’s account and Ash’s review.
Also on Tuesday emerged reports that LPS students being placed in “timeout rooms” outside of their classrooms was more widespread than the previous perception, and that the practice may not have been discontinued as early as administrators have said.
At the School Committee meeting, one mother spoke movingly about her son being put in a timeout room outside the Fiske ILP kindergarten classroom in 2008 and how it negatively affected him. And in a report that night on WBZ, a Lexington High senior shared his own experiences in an isolation room as a first-grader here. See that report on CBSLocal.
Wednesday came the websites, and increasing sentiment among some that the young girl’s name should not be used so freely.
Early in the day, residents and others interested in the situation came across the websites SavingRose.com and RoseFund.us, which both announced “The Rose Fund” was coming soon. Text on the sites said, “It takes a village to raise a child. It only takes one person to save one. There is a child out there who needs your help.”
Later in the day, the RoseFund.us site redirected to the Children’s Defense Fund website, and SavingRose.com attempted to redirect there, but with an error message.
To see screen grabs of the websites while they were up, click through the photos posted above.
According to DomainTools.com, RoseFund.us is a GoDaddy domain registered in Lichtenstein’s name on July 14 of this year, while SavingRose.com he registered in November of last year.
Speaking to Patch on Wednesday afternoon, Lichtenstein said his plan was to start a fund to support journalists reporting on child welfare issues, and that he included that sentiment in a draft of his OpEd when he began shopping it around to news organizations back in July.
Lichtenstein has also recently launched the a "Terrifying Discipline" Weebly, where media coverage of his allegations and the community's response have been posted.
According to a late-breaking news first reported by The Globe on Wednesday, Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash has asked the Department of Children and Families to investigate the reports of children being left in time out rooms.
Previously, Ash had said children were never left alone in the rooms, which differentiated the district's protocol and "time out" rooms from "seclusion rooms," in which staff was inaccessible for students.