An on-call teacher in Nanaimo has been suspended after she locked a six-year-old boy with autism in a storage room last fall, according to documents obtained by CTV News.

A resolution agreement between the teacher, Sherri Loewen, and the BC Commissioner for Teacher Regulation shows that the incident happened at a school in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District in September 2016.

According to the document, the boy was having a temper tantrum and Loewen’s education assistant moved the boy to a storage room containing bookshelves, books, a table and chairs, and left the door open.

It says the assistant was called to attend to another child, and then Loewen closed the door to the storage room, locking the six year old inside.

“She opened the door once to ask him if he wanted to play outside, but shut the door when Student A yelled at her,” the document says. “While the storage room door had a window, Loewen did not stay at the window to supervise Student A and ensure that he was safe.”

When the assistant returned and unlocked the door, she found the boy “curled up in a ball, crying.”

The agreement says Loewen had also left the room without asking the assistant to assume responsibility for caring for the student.

As a result, Loewen was suspended from taking on-call teaching jobs for two weeks without pay in the fall, likely losing about four days of work.

She was also required to complete a six-hour non-violent crisis intervention course in February.

Parents in the school district said they were shocked to learn about the incident, saying if it was their child, they’d be upset.

“Maybe the school needs to put something in place to deal with that, especially when it comes to kids with autism and how to deal with them,” said Sam Evans. “Mistakes like that shouldn’t be happening.”

The school district declined an on-camera with CTV News, instead issuing a statement about its policy on "self-regulation" rooms.

“All school districts must adhere to guidelines on physical restraint and seclusion in schools set by the province of B.C.,” it said. “In Nanaimo-Ladysmith public schools, there are safe spaces set aside called self-regulation or sensory rooms. In the district, these rooms can be used for a variety of reasons and school staff are instructed to accompany students while in these rooms.”

Staff at the Nanaimo Child Development Centre wouldn’t comment on this specific case, but said under no circumstances would they leave a child with autism unattended in a secluded room.

“Removing them from a situation is appropriate, but we would have somebody with them,” she said. “There’s two things. If safety is being addressed first, you need to ensure the safety of the child so that’s why somebody would need to be with them, to ensure that wherever they are they’re safe. If it’s around addressing the fact that they’re having a behaviour issue, there’s nobody there to guide them through it.”

In addition to serving a suspension last fall, Loewen is also facing a two-day suspension of her certificate of qualification that will take effect next week.  

With files from CTV Vancouver Island's Jessica Lepp