Ban 'isolation rooms' in schools, B.C. advocate group urges
Published Friday, November 22, 2013 3:50PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 22, 2013 4:28PM EST
Some parents in B.C. are expressing outrage after a recent survey found that school officials in the province were disciplining their children by sending them to isolation rooms and using various forms of physical restraint.
According to a survey of 200 hundreds parents conducted by advocate group Inclusion B.C., some of the students were allegedly locked alone in small rooms, closets and stairwells. Respondents said the children were left alone for up to three hours.
The report also found that the children, many of whom had special needs, were physically restrained by adults and forcibly held in chairs, dragged by their wrists, put in wrestling holds and had their arms twisted behind their backs.
Almost 80 per cent of parents who responded to the survey said that their children suffered from emotional trauma as a result of the treatment and 18 per cent reported physical pain or injury.
Savannah Wicks, a student from Victoria who suffers from seizures and has mild autism, says she was often mistreated and sent to isolation rooms by male teacher.
“I was lying on the ground and then he kept screaming at me to get up,” she explained in an interview with CTV Vancouver Island.
“He held a vote to the kids if they liked me and if I should stay or if they didn’t like me and I should leave.”
Savannah alleges the teacher then dragged her to a separate resource room, away from her classmates.
Adrianne Wicks, Savannah’s mother, said these types of incidents occurred on a regular basis and says Savannah still receives counselling as a result of her experience.
“As a parent, I feel guilty that I left here there,” she told CTV.
“They took everything from her. Her self-esteem, her everything was gone when she left this school. They had broken her,” she added.
As a result of the treatment, Savannah was moved to a private school and the Victoria School District settled with Wicks before her complaint was heard by the Human Rights Tribunal.
New Westminster Secondary School has a similar “safe room” equipped with padded walls and floors, where children are sent by staff.
Board of Education Chair Michael Ewen told CTV BC that the rooms are being used but stresses that children are not forced or locked inside.
“These rooms are used for a small amount of time as needed for the students. If it’s being abused in any way, and I’m certainly aware of a couple of occasions in the last year when they were, those were dealt with,” he said.
Ewen says incidents where children are being placed inside seclusion rooms for hours a day is inappropriate.
Deborah Makie, Principle of Special Education at the Greater Victoria School District, says school officials are trained to follow individual education plans and such practices are reviewed when incidents occur.
“When we have had upsets, we often need to re-write that plan. We need to get back together and determine maybe what went amiss, what it is that we don’t want to see happening and then move forward from there,” Makie said.
Advocate groups such as Inclusion B.C. are calling on the province to ban seclusion rooms all together.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she is taking complaints from the report very seriously and looking to see what the province can do to solve the issue.
“We are going to sit down with school districts and parents and teachers and talk about what’s going on out there, how we can do it better and whether or not we need a provincial policy on it because I’m really concerned about those reports,” Clark said in a news conference.
Karen De Long, a staff member at Inclusion B.C., says using physical force against students and placing them in seclusion rooms is a practice that must be stopped.
“It goes against everything that we know about raising children and teaching children and creating communities. It’s certainly abusive,” said.
With a report by Michele Brunoro, CTV BC.