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Waupun school dismantling “box” seclusion room

WAUPUN — The Waupun School District is dismantling a plywood seclusion room that was used to punish an autistic child. FOX6 Investigators broke the story about “the box” back in May.

The new superintendent of schools in Waupun says they are dismantling the “quiet room” at Rock River Elementary School. The five-foot by seven-foot padded room made of plywood was built as a safe area for special education students whose behavior is out of control.

Mandy Rennhack objected to the room when teachers placed her autistic son, Tyler, inside “the box” for refusing to follow directions.

“You don’t lock children up. You help them,” Rennhack said.

A FOX6 investigation shed light on the incident, and after the story aired, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction ordered the district to stop using the seclusion room until corrective actions were taken — such as adding a larger window, adding better ventilation and removing the locking door handle.

On Thursday, July 26th, the new superintendent in Waupun told Rennhack they’ve decided to take the room down altogether. They plan to replace it with a sensory room.

Waupun isn’t the only district criticized by the state for improper seclusion of students. Since 2009, the state has ordered corrective actions in Prairie du Chien, Ashland and the Muskego-Norway school districts.

When school begins in the fall, a new state law will take effect that requires districts to use seclusion or restraint only in cases of danger. By then, Waupun will have a new place for dealing with behaviorally-challenged students.

Rennhack has been trying to get her son, Tyler, transferred to another school district under the state’s open enrollment program. Beaver Dam Schools approved the transfer back in June, but Waupun blocked it, citing the cost.

Now, the districts have worked out some cost savings, and Tyler has officially been approved for a transfer to Beaver Dam.

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