Seclusion room ban remains despite Alta. school boards' appeal
Published Friday, August 23, 2019 2:34PM MDT
Last Updated Friday, August 23, 2019 7:39PM MDT
The province says Alberta's ban on seclusion rooms in schools will go into effect Sept. 1 as scheduled despite a public appeal from the four largest school boards in the province to reverse the policy.
The Calgary Board of Education, Calgary Catholic School District, Edmonton Catholic Schools and Edmonton Public Schools released a joint statement Friday afternoon asking the government to reconsider before students head back to class.
But later Friday, the province responded through a statement from Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
"As it currently stands, the Ministerial Order remains in effect," her statement reads.
"Minister LaGrange values the input from the metro boards, and will be reviewing their feedback on this issue. Alberta education will continue to work with partners in the education system to ensure the safety of all our students and staff."
In their statement, the school boards said that there were times that seclusion rooms were appropriate to use.
“We recognize that their use comes with the responsibility for school authorities to have clearly articulated policies and expectations related to the establishment, oversight and use of these spaces,” they wrote in a release.
The school boards further argued that banning seclusion rooms limits how they can address exceptional cases while still ensuring the safety of other students and staff.
In June, the Alberta Teachers' Association also voiced its opposition to the ban through a letter to the education minister obtained by CTV News.
"The Association believes that nonvoluntary time out is a strategy that should be available and employed when other interventions are unsuccessful," the letter reads in part.
In March, the previous NDP government announced that seclusion rooms would be banned with few exceptions effective Sept. 1, 2019.
The rooms are used to give disruptive students a chance to settle down.
Some parents of children with developmental disabilities have said the rooms are harmful to their kids. In 2018, the parents of a 12-year-old boy filed a lawsuit alleging that he was left locked in a seclusion room while naked and unsupervised three years earlier.
“The rooms are prison cells for challenged children,” said Marcy Oakes, the mother of the boy.
“The status quo isn’t working. They want to preach safety? What about the safety of all the children, the special needs children that can’t even speak for themselves,” Oakes said.
Developmental disabilities advocates point out the ban allows for exemptions.
"We believe the current ban as it's written allows for the use of seclusion in exceptional circumstances with proper oversight," said Trish Bowman with Inclusion Alberta.
"Really what it appears is the board are asking for a return to the status quo."
In Edmonton, most K-12 students are due to return to class on Sept. 3.