Eleven-year-old Ryphath Knopp waited for five hours to speak at Monday night's Columbia School Board meeting with index cards in hand.
When it was finally his turn, Ryphath was direct with the board: "It’s just not humane to trap children up," he said.
"It is just simply not safe."
Accompanied by his mom Becca Wilkinson, Ryphath was one of about a dozen community members who spoke against the district’s draft policy on restraint, seclusion and isolation.
The board was set to vote on a number of changes Monday night, including the change in the definition of seclusion, the elimination of an annual training requirement, and the extended timeline for teachers to complete an incident report. But after hearing from parents and advocates, the board postponed its vote; instead, it voted to send the language back to its policy committee.
The decision to halt the vote came after pictures of two seclusion rooms in construction in the Center of Responsive Education started to circulate on social media last week. The rooms, built and operated by Catapult Learning, a contractor recently hired by the district, sent such shock waves throughout the district that Board President Helen Wade said she decided to tour the facility herself.
At Monday's meeting, Wade said the rooms "are sufficient size" for a child to move, lay down or stretch, but aren't roomy enough for running. She also noted that the rooms have been painted and that the only way to lock the rooms is for a person to hold down the door handle from the outside.
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