Berkeley elementary school punished child with weighted compression vest, parent claims

A five-year-old transitional elementary school student was forced by her teacher to wear a weighted compression vest as punishment, turning her into a classroom “pariah,” according to her father.

Carlos Pennington made the allegation at Berkeley School Board meeting in early January, and in a complaint filed with the district, Berkeleyside reported.

Pennington and the girl’s mother, Carissa London, charged that an occupational therapist had apparently assessed the girl and approved the use of the vest at LeConte Elementary without their consent.

Veronica Valerio, the school’s principal, said the girl’s teacher claimed to have obtained verbal consent from both Pennington and London.

 “I don’t know how a kid is supposed to go to school and be ostracized like that,” Pennington reportedly said at the meeting. “I’ve never heard of anything like that before in my life.”

The Berkeley Unified School District owns nearly two dozen weighted compression vests, according to local reports.

The colorful outerwear, produced by the company Form and Function, is designed to have a “calming impact on the body,” a BUSD spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Berkeleyside.

Form and Function claims on its website that the vests feel “like a reassuring hug, perfect for helping to calm down, focus or cope with sensory overload.”

The “steady proprioceptive input and compression around the trunk are especially soothing for those with sensory challenges,” the website states.

Valerio indicated in a letter to the parents that the episode would change school policy.

“Your complaint made me aware of the potential for misunderstandings with assumed verbal consent, and accordingly I have directed the occupational therapist to provide a written consent form that must be discussed with, read and signed by all families to initiate a student’s trial period using a weighted vest,” Valerio wrote.