When first grader Richard Betonces Jr. was sent multiple times to his school's "calm-down" room, it gave him panic attacks.
"It was like being locked in jail," Richard Betonces Sr., Richard's father, told the New York Daily News.
Richard, 7, and 5-year-old Xavier were both removed from the KIPP Star Washington Heights Elementary School after they suffered from anxiety attacks after the school confined them alone in a tiny, padded cell, the Daily News reported.
"He was crying every day, scared he was going back," Richard Sr. told the Daily News. "It's made his mother depressed as well. It's a terrible thing."
In the "calm-down" room, kids are placed for an average of 15 minutes for bad behavior, like a time out, the Daily News reported.
"Like most schools we use time-outs as a way to make sure students remain safe," KIPP NYC Superintendent Josh Zoia told the Daily News. "The calm-down room is used only as part of a behavior plan which was both developed in collaboration with and approved by the parents."
For Xavier, a first grader, the room was a nightmare. He was sent to the room on Dec. 3, the Daily News reported, and had a panic attack so serious he went to the hospital.
"He was crying hysterically," Teneka Hall, Xavier's mother, told the Daily News. "It's no way to treat a child."
Hall told the Daily News she first saw the room when she visited the school at the beginning of the school year. There's no decoration, except for a mat lining the floor and one light. The room has one door with a window in it, the Daily News reported.
State law says adults do not have to be in the same room where kids are in a time-out, just as long as they can be easily accessed. School administrators said students are only sent there if their safety is an issue, the Daily News reported.
"This is the first we've heard of these allegations and our charter school office will be contacting the school," New York Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman told the Daily News.