Mother claims autistic son 'clawed, scratched through drywall' after staff forced him into small room

Published: Sep. 3, 2014 at 10:16 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2014 at 12:10 AM EDT
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Kim Gosnell (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Kim Gosnell (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Gwen Shultz (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Gwen Shultz (Source: WAVE 3 News)

GEORGETOWN, IN (WAVE) - A mother claims her autistic son was forced into a room the size of a closet, then he tried to scratch his way out.

Kim Gosnell said her son may have had an outburst, but it's how she claims Georgetown Elementary staff members handled it that caused the boy to react in way that could have harmed him.

"He has anxiety and sensory issues and here he was in a room with nothing except for a wall to scratch at. He dug so far with his hands into the wall that he was digging into the drywall." Gosnell said.

Gosnell claims staff forced her son into the small room and held the door shut.

"I've never seen that room and didn't know it even existed," she said.

Gwen Shultz, a special education instructor at Indiana University Southeast, trains educators on autism awareness and education. Shultz is not associated or connected with this case, but says schools may have calming centers for autistic children to desensitize.

"The children go in there to calm down, usually two to three minutes at a time. The children are monitored by a camera at all times to make sure the children aren't inflicting harm to themselves or others," Shultz said.

When asked whether an autistic child should ever be placed in a situation where they can claw at the wall, Shultz said, "No. Never."

New Albany-Floyd County School Asst. Superintendent Bill Briscoe declined to comment about any specific situation involving a student.

Gosnell has pulled her son out of school until she has an individualized education plan meeting with teachers and administrators.

"They should be equipped with how to handle these children properly and know that putting an autistic child in a room that size is going to do nothing but make his anxiety level grow," Gosnell said.

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