Uproar Over Autistic Boy in Box in Classroom

A fourth-grade teacher in Riverside County in southern California has been placed on administrative leave after reports of her sending Sage Rollins, a 10-year-old student with Asperger’s Syndrome, to sit in a box in the back of his classroom. According to the Los Angeles Times, Sage’s mother, Kim Rollins, learned about the use of the box, which was about the size of a large television, when her son asked her for scissors “so he could cut a window in the cardboard box his teacher sent him to sit in.” Saying that she is “outraged” and “insulted,” Rollins has filed an administrative legal claim against the district and the teacher, alleging that Sage’s isolation in the box “was involuntary, punitive and caused other fellow students to ridicule” him.

Sage said that Sabrina Beth MacFarlane, his teacher at Ronald Reagan Elementary School in Wildomar, “sent him into the box when she became upset with him”; he said that MacFarlane had previously “forced him to sit in a darkened supply closet.” In contrast, the school’s principal, Nori Chandler, told a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigator that Sage “went into a closet on his own, when he wanted ‘quiet time,’ and was never sent by the teacher.” A district counselor provided a “decorated large cardboard box” to help Sage deal with sensory overload and, says the Los Angeles Times, Sage himself “told the deputy he went on his own when he needed a quiet place.”

The investigation by the Sheriff’s Department ”failed to find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing” and said that school personnel did not appear to have “any intent” of mistreating Sage.

Kim Rollins, though, says that her son told her MacFarlane “had sent him to the closet or box for ‘time outs or when she was mad’” and that Sage also “went into the closet or box on his own as well.” He had previously told her of being “scolded” by the teacher who had once thrown “all his colored markers into the trash when he was drawing during class.”

Rollins said that Sage has an instructional aide and his or her role in supporting Sage in the classroom, and in communicating with his mother, needs to be clarified.

Of particular concern is that Rollins, according to the Los Angeles Times story, did not know about the use of the box until it had been used for some time in Sage’s classroom. Many autistic children experience sensory overload and a fourth-grade classroom is a likely place for such to occur. But accommodations such as providing a child with a quiet place to relax need to be discussed with a child’s parents first and, if agreed upon, spelled out in his or her Individualized Education Plan and, after all that, implemented. The Sheriff Department’s investigation may not have found “any evidence of criminal wrongdoing” but (again, based on the Los Angeles Times story) the school district — especially if Rollins was only told about the use of the closet and the box after the fact — has not respected Sage’s educational needs and rights.

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Photo by billaday


Lika S.
Lika P5 years ago

Oh, another trait with those with AS - because their personalities are borderline OCD, they are often obsessed with facts. Lying is way too creative and out of the box. Facts don't lie, facts show truth.

I have friends who are AS, as well as clients in home care.

Lika S.
Lika P5 years ago

A teacher sends a student into a box because she is "upset with him"... Why, because she can't deal with Asperger's Syndrome? I tell you one thing, people with AS are NOT mentally incapable. Many are quite intelligent. It's more of a personality disorder to where they can't "think" outside the box (no pun intended). So, if an unconventional or non traditional thought was being expressed, someone w/ AS wouldn't comprehend the logic even if you explained it 100 times over.

Many people with AS can function properly in the real world. It's just in a very orderly fashion. You don't lock one of these kids in a large box that is too small for the child, because they do need sunlight and stability. It's very important to keep stability, and making an example out of this child just to make him the brunt of bullies is NOT doing the child any good.

maybe if the teacher can't deal with the special needs students, they shouldn't be in the classroom.

Kate H.
Kate H.5 years ago

Whatever happened is to be figured out still, BUT, BUT, BUT, even if the child went into the box voluntary, the school should have mentioned it to the parent. If the teacher decided to do this on her own, she should have discussed it with the parents. Either way, the situation is wrong because it should have been discussed with the parents. Communication between teachers and parents are truly lacking. I have tried to request more communication with my son's teacher, but it just doesn't happen. My son is autisic as well. He has sensory overloads at times too. If the box would calm him, then great, BUT the teacher at least should talk to me about it so if my child were to say something to me or another adult, we wouldn't overreact.

Mary Cole
Mary Cole5 years ago

If the parents think they can do better, home school the child. I feel for the teacher. This child might enjoy the calmness of being in a box. As a child, my mom would often set up huge boxes for my brother and I to get inside of and play or "hide out". I am sure she did it to shut us up as we could bcome overbearing at times on days when she had us inside due to weather or illness....teachers need to be creative and I think this is a blown up story as the parents are upset with themselves for all sorts of reasons. It isn't easy to have an autistic child. I say give the teacher a raise and some praise and back off.

David O.
David Owens5 years ago

If you need to use a box or any type of torture/confinement tactics to teach a child, then you are not a teacher and should have your credentials revoked. Maybe even a little jail time so you can feel what it's like to be locked in a box and told what to do.

Nancy L.
Nancy L5 years ago

Holy crap - how does one even know if the kid is being honest? Maybe he did only go in by himself. People need to back off.

Rosemary Graf
Rosemary Graf5 years ago

It's time we educate our teachers better and reeducate older ones that there are better ways to handle handicap kids then this method. They seem to fail to see these students as people.

Sheri M.
Sheri M.5 years ago

SLMORENO at 10:00 AM February 29, 2012
My son Peyton Moreno is in Sabrina Macfarlane's class. I questioned my son about all the things the news reports said his teacher had done, NONE of them happened! It is really sad that this great teacher and our kids are the one's that are having to suffer from one big lie. This kid needs to be in a special needs classroom. My son has said that he used the box as a fort to go in when he didn't want to listen to the teacher and that he put himself in it, NOT her. He also would NOT stay out of the closet and would continually disrupt the class. WHY HAS NO ONE INTERVIEWED OUR KIDS IN THE CLASSROOM...WHO BETTER TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH?? We need to bring back our teacher and clear her name! Our kids are the one's paying the price!!

Parvez Zuberi
Parvez Zuberi5 years ago

Simply disgusting and unbelievable the school administration should be taken to task

William Y.
William Y5 years ago

More disgusting action.