Ex-PRU pupil tells of time out terror
5:30pm Saturday 29th September 2012 in News
A disturbing account of the notorious time-out room at the Neyland Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) has been revealed by a young woman who now has nightmares about being locked in the dark.
Deanna Potter has decided to speak out so that others will come forward.
Education lawyer Michael Imperato is fighting for legal aid for those affected by what he calls “Guantanamo Bay in Pembrokeshire” and says Deanna’s case is likely to be approved by legal aid experts.
One other case has already won legal aid.
Deanna, now 19 and living in Pembroke Dock, attended Milford Haven School for a month in 2004.
She said she was bullied and fought back so it was decided she would spend six weeks at the Phoenix Group at the PRU, but she never made it back to mainstream school.
“I experienced some awful things. It was terrifying,” said Deanna.
“I thought it was just normal, the council put it there so obviously it was supposed to be used.”
It was the extensive media coverage of the time-out room, first revealed by the Western Telegraph, that made Deanna realise what happened to her was wrong. But she was never interviewed by the police or social services.
“I was physically dragged in there and the door shut and locked. I could be locked in there for ten minutes up to all day.
“It was three to four times a week. When I was in there all day, I was not allowed out to go to the toilet. I was not allowed any food and was just given one glass of water for the whole day.
“There was a time when I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to suffocate and die.
Eventually they let me out. I think I was having a panic attack,” she said.
Deanna said that other children would tease her from the outside and she was left feeling humiliated.
“I hated being in that room. It was dark. I didn’t like being in the dark. I would scream and scream for someone to let me out. No one did. My behaviour got worse and worse and my attitude towards the staff there was very negative.
“I can recall it taking four members of staff to get me in there at times.
“My hair would be pulled and knees would be pressed against my body in order to get me in there. I would resist every time and get bruises but was told that it was my own fault,” she added.
After year nine Deanna attended the Pride Project, still under the behaviour support service, but she had a much better experience there.
However the time-out room still haunts her.
Even at her first neo-natal scan recently, Deanna started to panic because of the dark room.
“My bathroom has no windows and I start to have panic attacks if I am in there for longer than five minutes.
“I still have nightmares, mainly where I am locked in the room and the school is on fire.
No one comes to get me and there is smoke everywhere, I am choking and calling for my parents.”
Mr Imperato is now calling for a full, independent investigation into the time-out room as well as treatment and therapy for those affected.
“It’s an issue of long term psychological or even physical effects on the children, but if they get the right treatment, even now, that could be reduced significantly.
“It’s almost certainly a breach of human rights by false imprisonment,”
said Mr Imperato.
A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesman said: “Clearly these are very serious allegations and they will now be fully investigated by our Social Services directorate.”
To contact Mr Imperato call New Law Solicitors on 02920 784506.