Mother raises concerns about elementary school’s use of small ‘timeout’ room

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. -- A viral picture shows a third-grader serving detention at a local school.

The image, taken at Rock Ridge Elementary School in Castle Rock, raised a serious question: Did the school take "timeout" too far?

The girl’s mother said putting her daughter in a small room as punishment left the 8-year-old traumatized.

Meanwhile, the school’s principal said the room is a place where students learn.

Connie Ramstad said she was overcome with shock when she picked up her daughter Alegra who was placed in detention.

“To see her in that room with the door closed and crying,” Ramstad said.

Her daughter was pulled out of class for allegedly threatening another girl. Ramstad was outraged her daughter was placed in the small room.

“My daughter looks like she’s having some serious issues there and you guys haven’t even comforted her,” Ramstad recalled telling school officials.

She took pictures of her visibly upset daughter inside what she called a jail cell.

Ramstad said Alegra was in there for at least two hours.

“She’s traumatized. She was sick for three days. Now she’s a frightened little girl,” Ramstad said.

But what Ramstad saw as punishment fit for a criminal, Rock Ridge principal Peter Mosby saw differently.

“It’s not detention room, it’s a learning hall,” Mosby said.

Mosby said overwhelmed students can take a break in the room, do makeup work and at times it's used for "timeout."

“We have all these different methods that we’ve used all based on studies that have been done, how best to support kids,” Mosby said.

He said he checks on students regularly, gives them snacks and kids are free to use the bathroom. The school has never had a problem with the room before this incident.

In fact, Mosby said his son has been a visitor in the past.

Sven Gaskin's fourth-grade son once was sent to the room after lying to his teacher.

“He gets to go ahead relax and calm down. So it’s a good thing,” Gaskin said.

But two hours inside the room left Alegra scared, and that was enough for her mom to speak out and warn other parents.

“She doesn’t feel safe there. She doesn’t feel safe anywhere at school,” Ramstad said.

She removed her daughter from Rock Ridge and Alegra is now attending a different elementary school.

The school would not comment specifically on Alegra’s situation.

Mosby said parents are encouraged to connect with him and he will work to answer any questions they might have or address any concerns.

A spokeswoman for the Douglas County School District could not say if there are similar small rooms used in any of the other nearly 50 elementary schools, but did say the Colorado Department of Human Services visited the school last week.

She added the visit was done to be transparent about the room.