Edmonton

Seclusion rooms must be banned, Alberta education minister says

Seclusion rooms must be banned, Education Minister David Eggen said Friday after advocacy groups criticized draft guidelines around the use of seclusion and restraints for children with disabilities.

'We will enact change that will be in the best interest of our students and their safety,' minister says

A news conference hosted by disability groups Friday called for a ban on seclusion rooms, warning the province's proposed guidelines don't go far enough in protecting children. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

Seclusion rooms must be banned, Education Minister David Eggen said Friday after advocacy groups criticized draft guidelines around the use of seclusion and restraints for children with disabilities.  

"After initial discussions with the working group I established on this matter, I am convinced that seclusion rooms must be banned," Eggen said in a written statement.

"That said, we know that we need to find a safe space for students that are struggling and need therapeutic supports in school. That is why our working group will carry on with this important work," he said. 

Trish Bowman of Inclusion Alberta speaks to media February 15. 0:31

Eggen's statement came after a news conference where Inclusion Alberta and Autism Edmonton called for the ban and warned that the province's proposed guidelines don't go far enough.

"The proposed guidelines ... continue to allow for children to be confined in seclusion and dedicated time out rooms and for parents to be coerced into providing consent," said Trish Bowman, Inclusion Alberta CEO.

"No parent should have to live in fear that their child can be placed in seclusion and/or restrained every day."

Inclusion Alberta advocates on behalf of children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families, but is not part of the working group.

Inclusion Alberta and the Minister of Education say seclusion rooms must be banned. (Inclusion Alberta)

Edmonton Public Schools says seclusion rooms are used as a last-resort intervention for students whose behaviour becomes a danger to themselves, other students or staff.  It says the rooms give students a chance to regain control of their emotions and actions in a safe environment.

A review of their use was launched after a lawsuit was filed by the parents of a Sherwood Park boy last September.

The couple said their autistic son was stripped naked in 2015, locked in an isolation room and found covered in his own feces.

The boy's mother, Marcy Oakes, is a member of the working group formed by Eggen.

At Friday's news conference, she said proposed guidelines were barely different from the status quo.  

Brook Pinsky, with Autism Edmonton, called for teaching staff to be trained in positive behaviour supports, conflict de-escalation, and non-violent crisis intervention.

Eggen said efforts to draft "strict new guidelines" are continuing.

"By working together on this important issue, I know we will enact change that will be in the best interest of our students and their safety," he wrote.

Survey results

Bowman said guidelines in place since 2002 have "failed horribly" when it comes to protecting children, as shown by the results of their survey of 400 parents.

The survey shows 80 per cent of the children secluded or restrained are between the ages of five and 10 years and for 45 per cent, it's done on a daily basis.

Eighty per cent of children reported signs of emotional trauma or stress and 78 per cent of parents never gave consent.

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

@andreahuncar