Mother says disabled son was put in cardboard box at school as punishment

by: Dave Faherty Updated:

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CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. - A mother said a Caldwell County teacher put her son in a cardboard box to punish him while at school.

Joy Amatuccio showed Eyewitness News a photo of the time-out box at Hudson Middle School she said was made for her disabled son.

“I was mortified,” she said. “I was absolutely mortified. I think I was in disbelief at first, like, ‘Why would they put him in a box?’ There must be another explanation for this.”

Her son, Jacob, is mentally and physically handicapped and partially paralyzed after a traumatic brain injury when he was a toddler.  That injury causes him to have outbursts, and the school has an individual education plan to calm him down. It does not include placing him in the cardboard box, which is big enough to hold a refrigerator and has a flap that can be closed. 

“It's dignity. That's his dignity,” Amatuccio said. “These are all his peers. People can walk by and see, there's a child in the box.  ‘Look at the disabled boy in a box.’”

Amatuccio said the principal removed the box when he found out about it last month, but she didn't learn about it until she got a photo from another parent this week. 

The school district said the teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave for three days while an investigation is under way at the school.

“The Caldwell County School System would not allow a student to be in an isolated area or secluded area as a form of discipline,” said Libby Brown with Caldwell County Schools. “This is not in adherence to school board policy or procedure in Caldwell County Schools.”

Amatuccio said the principal apologized, and Jacob was placed in a different special needs class for the remainder of the year.

“When you think it is acceptable to put a child in a box, I don't think you should work with children. I think she's chosen the wrong career,” Amatuccio said.