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(Australia) School builds "fenced-off classroom" for autistic student; protection for other students

Aug 17, 2018, Canberra Times: Minister defends fenced-off classroom for boy with autism The ACT government has backed a specialist school that created a fenced-off facility to isolate a student with high needs from his peers. Abdul-Ghani Ferkh, who has complex autism, was suspended from the Woden School in early April after running off campus to the local shops, and had since waited more than four months to return to class. This month, his family were told he could only come back under strict new conditions that ban him from interacting with other students and some staff and restrict his movements in the school to a specially-built classroom encircled by fences and a floor-to-ceiling security gate. The school said this was the only way to ensure the safety of its staff and Abdul, but his family have labelled the set-up as inhumane and advocates have also raised concerns about Abdul's isolation…. A spokeswoman for Advocacy for Inclusion supporting the family said Abdul had a right to an inclusive education. "[The facility] is really concerning," she said…. While Abdul was initially eager to return to school to see his friends, his mother Safaa Joumaa-Ferkh said he became very upset when he arrived at the new facility for his first day back on Thursday and was still not himself on Friday. "It's a big cage," she said. "I have no choice but to send him there, but I don't want to. He can't wait to come home, he looks so sad."… The school alleges Abdul had been physically destructive throughout the year, pinching staff and damaging property, as well as running away multiple times. But his family say they had been reassured repeatedly that he was doing well at school before his "shock" suspension…. On Friday director of the ACT Council of Social Services Susan Helyar said the government's newly released future of education strategy was a good sign Canberra schools were heading in the right direction on student welfare but stressed more resources for special education were urgently needed. "The story makes it clear we need to get this right, it's not right," she said, while also noting the importance of teacher safety….

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