Sept 14, 2018, Edmonton (AL) Journal: Parents, advocates launch survey to learn how Alberta schools use seclusion rooms https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/parents-advocates-launch-survey-to-learn-how-alberta-schools-use-seclusion-rooms A lack of provincial data on school seclusion rooms has prompted a non-profit organization to survey parents about the use of restraint and isolation in schools. Posted Friday, the online survey is the first effort by Inclusion Alberta to find out how often students are locked in time-out rooms and for how long. Many students who end up in the rooms have developmental disabilities or behavioural disorders. “We want to try to get as complete a picture as possible of something that, in fact, has been hidden to most people in this province that has not yet been addressed,” Inclusion Alberta’s CEO emeritus, Bruce Uditsky, said at a Friday news conference. The room goes by many names, including isolation room, seclusion room, time-out room, safe room, or calm room. Institutions use them to either give an out-of-control person a place to calm down, or as a punishment for their behaviour, said Dick Sobsey, University of Alberta professor emeritus in educational psychology. There hasn’t been much research on whether the rooms are effective at changing students’ behaviour, he said in a Friday interview. There are often more effective ways of calming or diverting people having an outburst, he said. If the rooms are being used correctly, and staff are beholden to good guidelines, the rooms are rarely used, he said. Although Alberta’s education minister said isolation rooms should only be used as a “last resort,” Inclusion Alberta staff has heard of children locked in the rooms for hours, or on multiple occasions, CEO Trish Bowman said. School districts are free from reporting requirements on using the rooms, and provincial guidelines on their use are not enforced, Uditsky said. “Locking and leaving children with disabilities neglected and abandoned in seclusion or isolation rooms is a form of abuse and violence that needs to end immediately,” Bowman said Friday. “No child should go to school with this threat looming over them.” Families traumatized by rooms To demonstrate the potential harm of seclusion rooms, parents Marcy Oakes and Warren Henschel tearfully told reporters Friday about alleged actions by staff at a Sherwood Park public school in 2015. In a lawsuit, they allege staff locked their son with autism, then 12, inside a room naked, where they later found him covered with his own feces…. Edmonton parent Angela McNair is also wary of isolation rooms after she took her six-year-old son Rowan on a school visit two weeks ago. Rowan, who has autism spectrum disorder, Tourette syndrome, sensory processing disorder and other disabilities, was anxious and acting aggressively when McNair took him to visit the teacher at an Edmonton public school on Aug. 31…. A last resort Edmonton Public Schools calls the isolation rooms “timeout space,” and the school district is currently reviewing how staff use them, spokeswoman Carrie Rosa said in an email Friday. The district has “behaviour and learning assistance” programs at 36 schools, and “most” of the programs have a timeout space, Rosa said. The rooms are a last resort option to “give the student a chance to regain control of their emotions and actions in a safe environment,” she said. Biting, kicking, punching or throwing furniture present a risk to others, she said….
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