Nanaimo teacher admits locking autistic boy in closet

Nanaimo teacher admits locking autistic boy in closet

A Nanaimo teacher has been suspended after locking a six-year-old boy with autism in a storage room last fall. Skye Ryan reports.

A disturbing incident in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District has led to a teacher’s temporary suspension there.

Sherri Lee Loewen admitted to locking an autistic six-year-old boy in a classroom closet during an incident in September 2016, and for two days next week, the Teacher Regulation Board is suspending her from teaching.

Reed Botwright’s reaction to a Nanaimo-Ladysmith teacher locking a six-year-old autistic boy in a school closet was immediate.

“Breaks my heart,” Botwright said.”And then I’m a little angry because I know the kind of supports that are there or the lack thereof.”

His own seven-year-old son, Everett, who captured hearts across the Island as the KD Star Wars Kid, has autism so Botwright thought of that happening to him.

“And I just imagined that child being without anyone and not understanding, which is often the case [with] what’s going on,” the Nanaimo father of four said.

The incident that was detailed by the B.C. Teacher Regulation Board happened in a district elementary school on Sept. 16, 2016 when the six-year-old boy threw a temper tantrum in the class of on-call teacher Sherri Lee Loewen.

An education assistant (EA) placed the boy in a storage closet to calm him down and then left the classroom. That’s when Loewen admits to locking that storage closet and leaving him unsupervised. The child was later found curled in a ball, crying when the EA returned.

The district disciplined Loewen for four days last fall following the incident, but it’s unclear if she is still teaching in the district. The B.C. Teacher Regulation Board is suspending her teaching certificate for two days next week as an additional disciplinary measure but Botwright hopes the teaching community and parents learn something from this disturbing incident.

“I don’t want to place all the blame on the teacher,” Botwright said.

“Because I know that’s part of the problem but there’s also issues with resources and training for teaching staff because there are a lot of children on the spectrum in their system and just because of the funding model it can be a challenge for them to manage a full classroom.”

School District 68 would not comment on Loewen’s future in the district, insisting only that incidents like this are extremely rare.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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