GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A little girl with special needs says she was locked in a small room without windows and no way out at her Gilbert elementary school. The school told her mom it was because her daughter acted out, but her family says that answer isn't good enough and wants the school held accountable.
Seven-year-old Finley used to love going to school at Power Ranch Elementary. But one morning, her mom Hayley Kizer said everything changed.
"She says, 'Mommy, please don't make me go to school, please don't make me go.' And she peed her pants which is very unlike her," Kizer said. Her mom asked her why. "She said, 'I don't want her to put me in the box room again when I'm bad," her mom recalled.
Kizer asked the administration about the incident. She said the faculty member confirmed to her Finley was put there because she acted out.
"She threw something around in my office, so I just put her in there. It's no big deal," her mom recalled the administrator telling her. But Finley's mom says it is. "I'm gonna leave you in this room," Finley remembered the teacher telling her. "That's what they said to you?" asked reporter Briana Whitney. "Yeah, and then they walked out," Finley said. "How did it make you feel in there?" Whitney asked. "Scared," Finley said.
Finley has special needs, including ADHD, cognitive learning disability, dyslexia and sensory learning issues. The principal then got involved. Kizer said administrators actually took her and Finley to the "box room" so she could see what it looked like herself. She describes the entire room being 5 feet by 5 feet, with no windows and no handle to get out once you're locked inside.
"He assured me at the point in time that he had no idea this room was used on my daughter," Kizer said.
Kizer said the principal told her the room is used for special needs kids who are violent toward themselves or others, but it's a disciplinary measure outlined in the child's individualized education program, known as an IEP. She said the principal also told her kids' parents are notified when the child is put into the room.
"[Finley] does have an IEP set in place, but this is not on her IEP, nor did I have any idea these rooms existed," Kizer said. "You weren't notified she was put in there?" asked Whitney. "No," Kizer said. "These are people that we trusted, that my daughter trusted."
Arizona's Family reached out to the Higley Unified School District for comment, and a spokesperson sent this statement:
"Please know we take these accusations seriously and investigate all matters that come to our attention, but we are unable to respond to questions or concerns regarding specific students or employees due to privacy laws."
Kizer said there needs to be systematic change. "How about putting money toward better education for the teachers and administrators about special needs kids. All special needs," she said.