ST CHARLES, Missouri — Inside many local schools, you might be surprised to hear there are small, padded rooms. They are often hidden from view.
We're talking about isolation rooms.
They're supposed to be used to help children 'calm down,' but one mom says her child developed PTSD after being locked in the room several times.
Now that mom is being called up to share her story and potentially change Missouri laws.
Tracy Bono will never forget how she found out.
"[My son] said "I had to go to the blue room, I had to go to the blue room"," said Bono.
That's how her son Frankie, 10, told her he was spending time in Warren Elementary School's isolation room. Frankie has autism.
But Bono said the room at Frankie's former school was used to punish him and left him traumatized.
"They're padded closets, they're isolation rooms like you would find in a prison. And that is not appropriate for a school," said Bono. Staff at Francis Howell School district say the rooms are never used to punish students. They could not speak specifically about Bono's case due to student privacy laws.
Since the I-Team reported this story earlier this month, Bono says she's been flooded with stories from parents who have had the same experience but who don't have anyone to turn to.
"They're reaching out to me and they're desperate. And these children are suffering," said Bono. "These students are being thrown into these isolation rooms, which are not being documented correctly, there's little to no oversight. Sometimes its the teacher's word against a nonverbal child. And these children are damaged."
Administrators at Francis Howell school district admitted there is room for more oversight and accountability surrounding the isolation rooms, as we toured the school last month.
"Every district is expected to follow the policy and expected to monitor themselves," said Will Vanderpool, director of alternative learning with the Francis Howell School District.
Bono's story will soon have a much larger audience.
The state Developmental Disabilities Council has invited her to speak at the upcoming 2019 Disability Rights Legislative Day on March 13, 2019.
Bono's hoping to help influence new legislation that would require stricter oversight of the rooms. It's something she and others say is lacking.
"We're not going to be quiet, we're going to demand dignity and respect and the right to a proper education," said Bono.
State Representative Ian Mackey says he is working this session to strengthen the isolation room regulations that currently exist.
He may also be introducing a bill that would require more oversight on the use of the rooms.
There is federal legislation pending in Congress that would ban the use of isolation rooms.