New Zealand to outlaw school seclusion rooms
NEW ZEALAND - Seclusion will be outlawed following worrying cases where teachers locked autistic children in rooms alone for hours at a time. Education Minister Hekia Parata said she planned to make the use of seclusion in schools illegal and release guidance, developed by an advisory group, so schools had a clear understanding of how to deal with challenging behaviour. The majority of schools had good practices in place for managing challenging behaviour of a small number of students in a safe and inclusive way, Parata said, adding that dealing with this behaviour can be ‘very difficult’. But in today’s world there is no situation where it is acceptable for seclusion to be used in schools or early childhood education services, so I want to make that clear in the law.” The proposed changes, which will go through the select committee process and be added to the Education (Update) Amendment Bill, would prohibit seclusion in schools and early childhood education (ECE) services. The new law would work in a similar way to the current law that prohibits corporal punishment, Parata said. The changes come after investigations found the rooms were used in two primary schools to restrain children with autism. Investigations found two autistic boys, aged 6 and 11, were locked in a small, dark room at Wellington’s Miramar Central School on separate occasions. Seclusion is defined as the practice of a student being involuntarily placed alone in a room at any time or for any duration, from which they cannot freely exit or believe they cannot freely exit. Seclusion in the form of solitary confinement is already prohibited under early childhood education (ECE) regulations. The proposed legislation will include ECE services to ensure consistency across the education sector. On Thursday, the Ministry of Education sent a letter to schools to make it clear that no schools should be using seclusion. There were significant physical and psychological risks in placing a child alone in a room from which they cannot freely exit, she said. It also presented health and safety risks in the event of an emergency such as a fire. The Ministry of Education would also conduct a survey to find out how many schools have been using seclusion.
Education Minister Hekia Parata wants to introduce a law early next year to ban the use of the seclusion rooms in schools. (Photo: tirimoana)