When a parent drops their kid off at school in the morning, they imagine that their son or daughter is going to have the chance to learn, play, and grow in a safe environment, where teachers and administrators will be looking out for their well-being.
What they don’t expect is that their child, if misbehaving, will be placed all alone in a room smaller than a jail cell for hours on end.
But that’s exactly the scene that confronted mom Connie Ramstad when she arrived to pick up her daughter, Alegra, at the elementary school she was attending.
Her horrified mum has pulled her out of school.
The story starts at Rock Ridge Elementary in Colorado when Ramstad’s daughter, Alegra, who was 8 years old at the time, got into an altercation with a fellow student. According to Ramstad, her daughter had been bullied by this other child for about a year.
Alegra was tired of the mistreatment and told the bully, “Why are you being mean to me? Stop being mean to me, or I’m going to tell my mom on you,” as reported by KGMH in Denver. The bully then reported to the teacher that Alegra had “threatened” her.
It’s not clear if a teacher was present during this dispute, but the outcome was that Alegra was sent to detention for the alleged threat. But it wasn’t all this that made Connie Ramstad so angry; it was what happened next.
When Ramstad arrived, having been notified by the school that Alegra was in detention, she was horrified to see what the detention room looked like and the state her daughter was in. Her eyes were red and swollen, and school staff confirmed that she had been crying for a long time.
Ramstad was upset because she got the impression that the administrators were saying Alegra’s crying was the problem itself. As she told KDVR in Denver, she replied “my daughter looks like she’s having some serious issues there and you guys haven’t even comforted her.”
Even more upsetting was the space itself where Alegra had been kept. “I found our girl basically in a jail cell. What they call a detention room. This little room is [about] 2 feet by 4 feet,” as she told KGMH. Ramstad took photos to document what she felt was the callous mistreatment of her daughter.
The school says the room is used appropriately.
For Ramstad, the horrible aspect of the situation was exacerbated by the fact that Alegra’s cousin had committed suicide after being bullied a few years before, as she told KMGH. She added that schools need to take accusations of bullying seriously. “You hope that people are going to listen, and people are going to care enough not to let terrible histories repeat themselves.”
As for the school, they responded that the room was simply a place for students who needed “time out” from the classroom and their peers. The school principal, Peter Mosby, told KDVR that the room is a “learning hall,” where students can go to calm down when they can’t control their emotions or behave properly in class.
According to Mosby, students gets checked on by staff, can have snacks, get a drink of water, and use the bathroom. He even said his own son had to spend some time there as a result of behavioral problems.
But none of this was much consolation to Alegra, who had been incredibly upset by being put there for two hours. “We don’t know how long she’s going be traumatized from that. She’s been sick for three days,” her mom said to KGMH.
Because of the confinement and her emotional breakdown, Alegra had come to think of the school as a terrifying place.”She doesn’t feel safe there. She doesn’t feel safe anywhere at school,” Ramstad said to KDVR.
Meanwhile, the Ramstads decided to transfer Alegra to another school where she could be free from bullying and have a chance to start over.
But the question remains what kind of discipline is appropriate for young children and how much parents know about what goes on at their kids’ schools. As Ramstad’s attorney, Igor Raykin told KGMH, “this is not the way to treat a child.”