Alberta introduces new guidelines for use of seclusion rooms, physical restraint
Published Wednesday, October 23, 2019 8:18AM MDT Last Updated Wednesday, October 23, 2019 6:03PM MDT
EDMONTON -- The Alberta government is introducing new standards for the use of seclusion rooms in schools.
The Alberta government is introducing new standards for the use of seclusion rooms in schools.
Education minister Adriana LaGrange announced the change Wednesday, saying it will take effect on Nov. 1.
The new standards for seclusion rooms and physical restraint "give teachers and school officials the tools they need to ensure a safe learning and working environment."
They include design specifications that must be used in all seclusion rooms and mandate schools to report on the use of the rooms on a regular basis.
“Seclusion and physical restraint are tools of last resort. I applaud school divisions that are looking for ways to limit their use, and are even working towards their elimination," LaGrange said. "What these standards do is provide clear guidance for how and when these tools are used, and they will hold the system accountable.”
Seclusion rooms are used to involuntarily confine or isolate students who pose harm to themselves or others.
The guidelines indicate they're meant to be used only after other options, such as time outs, have been exhausted.
When they are used, school staff must indicate continually monitor the child or student through the seclusion or physical restraint.
The rules also state that seclusion rooms cannot be used as punishment or to force compliance or when a student suffers from a known medical, physical or psychological condition that would make the rooms dangerous.
When students are placed in a room, their parents must be notified immediately. The students must be removed from the room as soon as they no longer pose a threat to themselves or others.
Inclusion Alberta said it was "encouraged" that the province adopted some of its recommendations in the standards, but the organization will keep pushing for the elimination of seclusion and restraint in schools.
In August, the UCP government repealed a ban on the use of seclusion rooms, a move lauded by the Alberta Teachers' Association, which said the measures are needed when other interventions are unsuccessful.
The previous NDP government that introduced the ban said at the time locking students with disabilities in rooms alone could traumatize them.
"I've seen a lot of these rooms myself and a lot of them aren't even large enough to lie down in, and I don't think that's giving kids our best," said NDP MLA Sarah Hoffman.
LaGrange said the government does have the overall goal of eventually eliminating the use of seclusion rooms, but Edmonton Public Schools says there's no timeline in place to do so.