AUSTIN, Texas - The parent of a special needs child said her son was kept in a padded room at school for hours and not allowed to go to the bathroom.
10-year-old Michael Cruz Rick was a student at Mina Elementary School last year.
His mother said he was often put in a padded room when he would get agitated during class, but on one particular occasion she claims he was kept inside for about three hours and the circumstances were enough to convince her to remove him from the district altogether.
“He was just delayed in some things,” said Damiana Cruz, Michael’s mother.
Michael was placed in Special Programs and Services classes because of his learning disabilities.
“He’s autistic, he's ADHD, he's ODD, PTSD, he’s got just about every abbreviation there is,” said Sylvia Rick, Michael’s Aunt and caregiver.
Cruz said the classes have fewer students, in Michael’s case only two and more teachers who can work with them, but for children with behavioral issues, like Michael, the classes also include another feature.
“When they put him in this SPS program, it came out to where they had him in these padded rooms. We discussed with the teacher and the staff, we don't want him in the padded room unless it's 99.9 percent necessary where he's a harm to himself or other people,” said Cruz.
Although she made her concerns clear, Cruz said Michael was put inside the padded room on several occasions. Then, in September, her fears materialized.
“The day that I got the phone call, he was already in the padded room for over an hour. By the time I got there, an hour and a half later, it was almost three hours later,” Cruz said.
Damiana said not only was her son in the room for all those hours, but he was not allowed to use a bathroom while he was inside. By the time she got to him, Damiana said he had already soiled himself.
“They've got a bathroom in there, but they refused to let him go until somebody got there,” said Cruz.
A spokeswoman for Bastrop ISD said both the principal and director of special programs and services at Mina Elementary deny the incident ever took place.
They said while they do have "cool-down" rooms, the rooms do not have a lock and there is always an adult in or just outside of them.
However, a copy of an admission, review and dismissal report provided by Cruz shows she had discussed the incident with officials at Mina.
When asked about it a second time, Bastrop ISD officials said they could not discuss a specific student due to privacy laws.
“I've been fighting for over eight months now on just this incident alone and nothing's been done about it,” said Cruz.
Now Cruz and Rick are fighting for other special needs families that may go through something similar.
"Other than home, where are they supposed to be safe at? At school. And that's not happening. Something needs to be done,” Rick said.
Cruz said Michael has become more violent since attending Mina Elementary School. He has also since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.
Cruz was able to move Michael to Austin ISD in October where she said he has been more successful.