Wilmington charter school suspends use of seclusion room after illegal usage

Reporter Mark Darrough of Port City Daily talks about his story on Cape Fear Center for Inquiry

WILMINGTON, N.C. (PORT CITY DAILY) — The Cape Fear Center for Inquiry suspended use of its seclusion room last fall after the family of a seven-year-old student filed a grievance against the public charter school. The school admitted that the room — and its policies for the room — did not meet minimum state standards.

Although the K-8 school was first designed to include a seclusion room, according to the school’s response to the grievance, the administration was “unable to find any record or document of the specific approval for use of that room as a seclusion room.”

While the school’s grievance committee agreed to make changes to its policy, the parents remain concerned — both that they were never informed of how the seclusion room would be used, and that Cape Fear Center for Inquiry (CFCI) was ultimately subject to little accountability from the state, despite being publicly funded.

Failure to meet state standards

After parent Sandy Eyles filed a grievance, the administration conceded to several violations of state requirements outlined by the Greenblatt Act: inaccurate reporting of two incidents of seclusion, a failure to include its seclusion protocols in the yearly handbook until two days before the grievance was filed, and a failure to meet the state’s minimum design requirements.

Additionally, it is unclear whether the school ever created a board-approved policy concerning its seclusion room.Administrators said although a policy was drafted, no record of board discussion or approval of the policy could be found in the board’s minutes.

CFCI boardmembers and administration offered only a limited response to more detailed question.

‘’The appropriate steps have been taken to review the concerns mentioned,” Business Operations Coordinator Katherine Coke responded. “We can provide no further comment at this time.”

No accountability

Before ultimately removing her child from CFCI, Eyles reached out to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools. The family was told there was “no other recourse” for the office. A spokesperson told the family the state had “very limited jurisdiction” and would only be able to offer recommendations --- the same as those offered by the grievance committee.

“So the school illegally put my child in a room and that’s it,” Eyles said. “They’re just going to say, ‘We’re not going to do this anymore.’ There’s no accountability … I hate that my child was in the room. I hate that it happened. But my biggest concern is that the board and the administration don’t seem to care. There’s never been an apology or concern if my child’s okay.”

The school has maintained that it used proper deescalation techniques prior to placing Eyles’ daughter into the seclusion room, and that seclusion itself was used rarely and only “when all other strategies have failed.”

“Based on our professional training and experience, the team believes the actions were appropriate to support the child,” the administration responded to the family’s grievance.

Read the full story from Port City Daily here: http://bit.ly/2GnOytT

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