Seclusion room ban the first step to protecting children with disabilities

March 1, 2019

Inclusion Alberta commends Alberta Education’s commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of children with disabilities in Alberta Schools

Inclusion Alberta is encouraged by the Ministerial Order banning seclusion rooms in schools throughout the province. This sets Alberta apart from the rest of the country in protecting students with disabilities, although next steps will be crucial in ensuring ongoing safety.

Inclusion Alberta President Barb MacIntyre, a parent of a son with developmental disabilities, said “We applaud the Minister’s leadership on this issue and are deeply appreciative that he has listened to the concerns of families across the province. This is a historic change for students in Alberta, and Canada, and I know many parents who will be relieved they no longer have to live in fear their child will be placed in seclusion or isolation.”

While this is an important first step, Inclusion Alberta recognizes the need for a robust investment in training for teachers, school districts and support staff in positive behaviour supports and practices. While seclusion rooms will be de-commissioned, it is the practice of seclusion and isolation that must no longer be considered an acceptable strategy or response for any student.

Inclusion Alberta CEO Trish Bowman adds “We are, however, deeply concerned about the availability of exemptions. Seclusion should never be part of a planned programmatic approach so we need to know what criteria will be used for determining a child can still be placed in seclusion. We know parents can be coerced into agreeing to these practices in order to keep their child in school and this cannot be allowed to continue, nor should requesting seclusion be reason in and of itself for an exemption. We will continue to advocate to ensure the safety of all children.”

“It will also be important to be able to track which schools receive exemptions for seclusion rooms, how they are monitored and how school districts will be held accountable for their use. We hope this will be information available on the public record beginning this September.”

The Ministerial Order comes after Inclusion Alberta released details of a survey conducted in the fall, where nearly 400 families reported their child being placed in seclusion or restrained at school. Almost all of these students were under the age of 10, many were repeatedly placed in rooms and situations they could not leave and the children and their family members are traumatized by these practices.

Inclusion Alberta CEO Trish Bowman speaks with reporters.