No criminal charges filed against teacher in Marion isolation ca - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

No criminal charges filed against teacher in Marion isolation case

MARION, IL (KFVS) -

Investigators ruled a Williamson County special education teacher was not breaking any laws after a 12-year-old boy was put into a small room alone, with no way out, for four hours at Marion Junior High School, according to the Williamson County State's Attorney.

State's Attorney Brandon J. Zanotti reports an investigation by his office did show the seventh-grader, Jax, was held in isolation.

Investigators also ruled the teacher did not likely follow administrative procedures under the Illinois School Code concerning isolation rooms.

However, Zanotti reports at this time it does not appear that the teacher's actions rose to the level of criminal behavior.

Family Reaction

The family of Jax said they were outraged by the incident.

“He said that day he was put in the 'Hole,'" Marionna Ping, the student's mom, said. 

“This room is labeled ‘Closet #2.’ This room has no air vents. This room has no door handle on the inside or way to get out in emergency,” Monica Zukas, the child’s aunt, said.

According to Seventh-Grader Jax and his mother, the teacher put him in the room because he refused to do his schoolwork and was disrupting the class. Even so, they agree, no child deserves a punishment like this. Jax even tried to escape.

“You know the lock, I can’t really get out. If they’re holding it, I can’t get out but if they aren’t you have to kick and kick and kick and it loosens up a little and it opens but that’s not always. They had to rig up a ruler so I couldn’t get out," Jax said. 

According to Zukas, the room was 5 x 12 feet.

“My nephew, on numerous occasions over the past few weeks, was locked in a small room within the [Behavioral Disorder] room, sometimes for hours at a time,” Monica Zukas said.

Jax was in the Behavior Disorder classroom. While it’s at Marion Junior High, the teachers are employed by the Williamson County Educational Services. 

The Williamson County Special Education District's discipline policy includes taking students out of class if they're not behaving. A teacher is also authorized to impose any disciplinary measure, but cannot strike the child or kick them out of school.

The policy also includes instructions to notify parents or guardians. Ping says she was not notified of what was going on in the classroom. 

“My family is devastated and my nephew traumatized for life,” Zukas said.

Ping said what’s most troubling is how long Jax had to stay in isolation.

“I have P.E. first hour, and it starts at 8:07 to 9:07 and I would go in there and he would let me out either around 2:07 and if I didn’t go to my 7th hour class, I would get out at 3:07," Jax said. 

Ping said her son sometimes wasn’t even let out for lunchtime.

“He would not only have to eat his lunch on the floor but after he finally gave up he would just go to sleep in the room," Ping said. 

“They would just open the door and give me the food and then shut it back really fast," Jax said. 

Now, Jax and his family hope this doesn’t happen to any other child.

“It just doesn’t feel right in my head, it’s just scary," Jax said. 

The Investigation

Zanotti reports the Marion Police Departments and its investigators interviewed multiple witnesses.

Director of Williamson County Education Services Jami Hodge said in a statement:

“The district and the special education cooperative are cooperating with the investigation.”

The case was later forwarded to the State's Attorney's Office, which spent weeks reviewing the case to conduct legal research into possible courses of action.

At this time, Zanotti reports no charges have been filed against the teacher.

According to Zanotti, the State's Attorney's Office met with the family to discuss the outcome of the investigation.

The family of Jax said they are petitioning the State Board of Education for an investigation that could provide administrative remedies.

Zanotti reports the family is also pursing civil remedies.

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