This was the room principal Terry Tippin said Russell used as a "time-out" room, and the same room in which Leigh Casto's son Nathan was placed in August 2010.
At the time, there were some boxes in there, as well as a desk and board. There was a door attached, which had a large window, but no lock on it, Tippin said. The room was meant to be used as a quiet study area. Now there are no boxes, only two student desks, a computer desk and chair, making the small area seem even smaller. There's also no door at all now.
"At no time did we lock a student in a closet," Tippin said, responding to claims parents made to the media. "I apologized that we had a parent that felt she was mistreated."
Indiana's Department of Education has guidelines regarding isolated time-outs, which cannot be used as a form of punishment. The school board could create guidelines that would require isolated time-outs to be used but they should be used only as a means of maintaining a safe and orderly environment, IDOE states.
As to why Russell placed the child in the room or whether she received any disciplinary action after the event, Tippin would not comment. However, he said the incident was fully investigated and the matter was handled appropriately.
Tippin showed the Banner Graphic the room as a result of the recent resurfacing of the August 2010 incident. Russell is currently being accused of improper conduct because of recent Facebook posts she made regarding her job. Some of the posts were "I love dumb people. I call it job security" and "5+1=Freedom from the Hell hole."
Casto clarified some of her remarks and experiences with the Banner Graphic in regard to the August incident. Casto said she had not seen the room herself, but Old National Trail representative Nancy Holsapple and disability advocate Jill Summerlot told her about what the room looked like after the incident occurred. Casto said Nathan's individualized education program, or IEP, did not give the school permission to use a time-out seclusion, and such seclusions should be recorded and supervised at all times according to IDOE guidelines.
Casto said Nathan was not a student in Russell's class at the time of the incident. Nathan's designated safe person, counselor Andy Cottingham, was watching Nathan at the time and had to leave. He asked Nathan if he wanted to go to the gym for physical education class or to Russell's classroom. The gym class was not adaptive for his needs, and Nathan chose to go to Russell's classroom.
Upon entering the classroom, Nathan had asked Russell if he could use the computer, which would follow his usual routine, Casto said. Russell denied his request, and when questioned, Russell did not give him a reason. Casto said Russell assumed her son was in her class for disciplinary reasons, and Russell claimed he was a disruption to the class. She said Russell took Nathan by the arm and placed him in the time-out room, which Casto said was not a designated time-out room at the time and was confirmed to be a supply closet by Holsapple and North Putnam superintendent Mary Lovejoy.
At one point in Nathan's time in the room, his mother claims Russell held the door shut, and he was left in the room unsupervised.
Casto said she had heard about the incident from another student and attempted to get an apology from Russell several times. Immediately after the incident, Nathan became distrustful to people at school and later made the suicidal remarks that prompted counseling.
"His personality had completely changed," Casto said. "She needs to be out of there."
North Putnam Superintendent Mary Lovejoy and Russell could not be reached for comment Friday.
The matter of the Facebook postings is still being investigated by the school corporation, and officials had no comment at this time.