Survey explores use of restraints and seclusion in BC schoolsNovember 1, 2013
A union official warned this week that spending cuts in New Westminster school district could lead to greater use of segregated rooms for special-needs students.
CUPE local president Marcel Marsolais said the loss of 27 special-education assistants might mean the rooms are required more often for safety reasons, the Royal City Record reports.
Although a district official disputed his claim, it raised an issue that gets only sporadic attention in B.C. – the use in some schools of restraints and seclusion for children with special needs and disabilities.
Later this month, Inclusion BC plans to release a provincial survey on the subject. While it wasn’t a scientific study, the findings are disturbing, the organization’s executive director Faith Bodnar said Friday.
Of the 300 parents and guardians who responded to the survey, 250 reported that their students (aged 5-19) had been subjected to restraints and seclusions.
“We were absolutely shocked,” Bodnar said in an interview, adding that the measures were used as “behaviour management” and not for safety reasons.
Almost three-quarters of respondents said they were not informed of these actions by the school but became aware of them through other sources, she added. Almost half subsequently removed their children from the school.
Details of the survey are to be released Nov. 22 during an RSVP event at Douglas College. Speakers include Vianne Timmons, the University of Regina president who is also president of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and Pat Mirenda, a professor in the UBC Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education Department.
More information about the event can be found here.
Participants will also view Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories, a film that is part of a U.S. campaign to stop restraint and seclusion abuse in schools.
Little is known about the use of restraints and seclusion in schools because no one keeps track, Bodnar said. Last year, Inclusion BC asked the Education Ministry to require schools to report when they use such tactics and prohibit seclusion in all cases, but it declined, saying such decisions fall within the school boards’ purview.
While some school districts have policies on the use of restraints, Bodnar said she knows of none with policies on seclusion. Nor is it known which districts use these measures and which ones don’t.
The following definitions are from Inclusion BC.
Restraint – The use of physical procedures by one or more individuals or mechanical devices to limit freedom of movement. Example: Holding an individual in an immobile position for a time.
Seclusion – Placement in an isolated area for an extended time and prevention from leaving the area. Example: Placing an individual in a locked room or closet, or where a person of authority blocks exiting this room. Other terms used may include isolation, time out, alone time, quiet time, taking a break, sensory break, exclusion or personal office time.
“It is generally accepted that brief physical intervention used to interrupt an immediate and serious danger to the child or others may be called for in the case of a safety emergency,” the organization says. “This is different from the ongoing use of restraint as punishment or in the guise of treatment for a child’s disability or behaviour. Frequent use of emergency restraint is an indication that program revision is needed, even if the program is considered positive.”