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Please report seclusion room use in Alberta schools

Published Wednesday, September 11, 2019

As we continue to advocate for an end to the use of locked seclusion rooms and involuntary confinement in Alberta schools we would very much appreciate hearing from you if, and when, students with developmental disabilities are being forced into these rooms or otherwise confined.

You may report any incidents regarding the use of students being locked in seclusion, involuntarily confined or physically restrained, and surrounding details, by emailing us at mail@inclusionalberta.org.

The recent ban on seclusion was completely unenforceable and if allowed to remain would have resulted in entire school districts being exempt and able to use locked seclusion rooms. In addition, if even one district was exempted it would be extremely difficult, if not legally impossible, for the government to deny other districts an exemption. From the outset of the Ministerial ban, we raised objections to the allowance of an exemption, as any criteria allowing for locked seclusion would have allowed the practice to continue. Given the previous use of the word “ban”, and the media coverage focusing on a ban, many people did not realize the Ministerial Order allowed for entire school districts to be exempted and if one was exempted then so could others be. The past Ministerial Order was inherently flawed, so much so, it would have allowed locked seclusion rooms to continue on a system-wide basis.

Our position has not changed. We continue to believe that locking children up, or comparably confining or isolating them, is morally reprehensible, unnecessary and harmful. As such, we continue to extensively support Aidan Henschel’s parents in their lawsuit against the Alberta government and the school district that locked Aidan in seclusion.

As the case proceeds and the outcome remains to be determined by the courts, it is our hope that the courts will hold the Alberta government and school district accountable and determine that teachers and principals do not have the legal authority to lock children up; any more than a parent does, and that locking up children with disabilities breaches their human and Charter rights. This spring, a judge in Ontario ordered the federal government to compensate inmates with mental illness $20 million for their solitary confinement. The question arises now as to what compensation children with disabilities and their families are entitled to for their unwarranted seclusion on the basis of their disability?

There is something fundamentally wrong when there are school districts in Alberta that have no seclusion rooms and yet others have more than 100. As a consequence of this known and public reality, we believe it is perfectly clear that the use of locked seclusion rooms is a function of a school system’s culture, history and/or the values of its leadership. It is not a function of a student’s disabilities or the complexity of whatever challenges a particular student might have. Aidan Henschel is living proof of this truth.

Shortly, we and others will be engaged in a government process that once again examines the use of seclusion and physical restraints. While we think there is sufficient evidence with respect to research and past abuses within Alberta schools to forever eliminate the use of locked seclusion or comparable involuntary confinement, we cannot be certain of the outcome. Continuing to gather evidence on the use of seclusion rooms while they continue to be permitted will assist us immeasurably in our continued and necessary advocacy.         

Please report any incidents of students being locked in seclusion, involuntarily confined or physically restrained by email at mail@inclusionalberta.org.


 

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