Inclusion Alberta remains committed to ban on locking students up
August 29, 2019
Alberta’s Education Minister has repealed a Ministerial Order banning seclusion rooms in schools. The ban was due to take effect September 1, in time for the new school year. Along with parents of students with developmental disabilities, Inclusion Alberta had previously asked for a ban.
Standards for the use of seclusion, physical restraint and time-outs will be in place by November and, until then, a new Ministerial Order places interim standards on schools for seclusion, physical restraint and time-out. Inclusion Alberta looks forward to being a part of this process and bringing forward the input of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.
The previous ban on the use of seclusion rooms, while well intentioned, was not actually a ban as it allowed for an entire school district or authority to be exempted. We believe a ban needs to apply to the use of locked seclusion rooms.
Having a quiet space where a child with developmental disabilities can go when needed, however, is not equivalent to locking them in an isolation room.
Trish Bowman, Inclusion Alberta CEO, stated, “It can never be emotionally or psychologically beneficial to drag or force a distraught child with developmental disabilities into a seclusion room or its equivalent and leave them locked in for an indeterminate amount of time. Children need to see their teachers and principals as points of safety and comfort; as people they can trust and go when they are at risk.”
“Given children with disabilities experience higher rates of violence and abuse in their lives, we need schools that are zones of protection and safety not sources of further violence and abuse as our survey on the use of seclusion and physical restraints exposed; particularly as their use was applied primarily to young children with disabilities,” she said.
Provincial standards must go beyond requiring school authorities to report monthly on their use of a seclusion room and/or physical restraint. The very use of such procedures must require prior provincial approval and monitoring of actual practice. Past guidelines prohibited the use of locked seclusion yet when school authorities were entrusted to act responsibly without provincial oversight too many clearly and overwhelming failed to do so, by not only locking children in seclusion without regard for their safety but, as well, sometimes forcing them into classroom cupboards or barricading them into classroom corners.
Barb MacIntyre, Inclusion Alberta President and parent of a son with developmental disabilities added, “Knowing the history of schools and educational leaders in failing to ensure our children were always safe we call upon the government of the day to ensure the past is not repeated. We certainly don’t see how it could be acceptable to families who send their children with disabilities to school every day, some of whom cannot understand or explain what has been done to them, to later only find out by accident that their child was locked up that school day.”
The Interim Standards must be strengthened to prohibit the use of locked isolation or seclusion rooms and to require prior provincial approval for the use of seclusion and/or restraint with monitoring as to practice. As seclusion and/or restraints are only to be used in emergencies not as programmatic practice, any repeated and continued use is a clear signal that changes in school practice are required to better support and ensure a student’s safety and those of their classmates.
Inclusion Alberta asks that families read the Interim Standards for both seclusion and restraint and time-outs. These are important documents to have as the school year begins.
Interim Standards for Seclusion and Physical Restraint: downloadable PDF
Both interim standards can be found online at the Alberta Government’s website.
If you have any questions about the Ministerial Order or Interim Standards, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.