BERKLEY (KPIX 5) – Certain schools in Berkeley using a type of vest designed to calm young students have angered at least one parent who claim they were never informed of the policy.
The makers of the weighted compression vests being used in the Berkeley Unified School District say wearing the vests feels like a reassuring hug and designed to have a calming effect on the body.
But that was not how one Berkeley parent reacted when his 5-year-old daughter had to wear the weighted compression vest at Le Conte Elementary School.
That father, Carlos Pennington, spoke at a recent Berkeley School Board meeting with his daughter standing by his side. He said that he had filed complaints that his girl has been subjected to “abuse and harassment by a teacher” that included wearing the compression vest.
“She’s been in a weighted vest that is probably half her size,” said Pennington. “I don’t know how a kid is supposed to go to school and be ostracized like that – be made the pariah of a classroom – because she has on a vest that is for discipline. I’ve never heard of anything like that in my life.”
Pennington went on to say the treatment was being investigated by the state and that he felt his daughter was being singled out as one of the few black students in her class.
The Berkeley Unified School District owns nearly two dozen weighted compression vests and according to a district spokesperson.
“The use of weighted vests, in some limited cases, where students face obstacles to benefiting from classroom instruction, is sometimes a support recommended by educational or therapeutic professional,” Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Charles Buress.
But the girls father claims an occupational therapist made his daughter wear the vest without parental consent.
“I’m only here today to voice my concern for a five-year-old girl who is now scared to go to school. And no one’s done anything about it,” said Pennington.
Parents at the elementary school tell KPIX 5 the school recently sent a letter to parents, saying the recent complaint has prompted the school to make sure parents sign a consent form to avoid future misunderstandings.
Berkeley parent Andrea MacRae agrees that parents must be informed.
“If it’s going to help her, then yeah, we have a plan about when to use it and when to use it. And it would be run by the occupational therapist’s plan,” said MacRae.
While Le Conte Elementary officials say that parents were verbally told about the use of the compression vests, the complaint has led to the policy change requiring signed and written consent.