Banning Seclusion Rooms came too late for some disabled students

Seclusion is unacceptable in any school, and recent incidents continue a sorry trend for the Ministry of Education.

In the aftermath of what happened at Mirimar Central School, there is no question that better measures need to be put in place on how to deal with challenging behavior in the classroom. Clearly, Mirimar Central School was ill-equipped to manage some behavioral issues that occur with disabilities like Autism.

The term, challenging behavior, is difficult enough to define in itself, but the recent incident at the Wellington school made for some difficult reading.

A seclusion room was used to give students with bad behavior a form of time out. Many of these students had learning disabilities. As reported, one child was confined to the room 13-times in just nine days, with no monitoring, for what the school described as behavioral issues.

The child, aged just 11, has Autism and his treatment by the school broke all grounds of reasonable management. The room had a small, high window, and only a small slot in the middle of the entrance door.

This certainly hasn’t been the first time that an opinion has been aired about this issue either. The past month has been a disaster for the Ministry of Education, and the image of Special Education in New Zealand is nearing an all-time low.

The Ministry has officially apologised for how it handled the complaints that came from parents about the use of exclusion rooms at Mirimar Central School. Since then, several reports have surfaced of even more seclusion rooms at schools around the country still in operation.

After that, and finally, the Ministry of Education made the use of seclusion rooms in school illegal. The bigger question is, has the decision to make the use of seclusion rooms illegal come too late for some? It certainly has for the child at Mirimar Central School.

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