IHC says it’s time to shut seclusion rooms for good

Media release – 14 October 2016

IHC welcomes today’s decision to investigate the use of seclusion rooms in schools and for all to be shut down until a finding is determined.

The Chief Ombudsman’s decision follows the Minister of Education Hekia Parata’s comments yesterday on RNZ that the use of these rooms is “absolutely intolerable”, after a boy with autism was placed in one at Miramar School in Wellington.

“We welcome the Ombudsman’s decision today and ask that IHC be included on the investigation panel,” says IHC Director of Advocacy, Trish Grant. “These seclusion rooms reflect outdated practices when it comes to providing for the needs of all children including those with intellectual disabilities or autism. 

“What’s needed is an individualised response to each child’s needs and schools need more support and direction.

“The UN recommendations on the Rights of the Child released last week make it abundantly clear that seclusion policies have to stop, and to date the Ministry of Education hasn’t gone far enough,” she says.

While the concept of ‘time out’ might seem reasonable in some circumstances, for any child seclusion can be traumatic and unsafe. 

“There’s a big difference between giving a child some time and space to calm down, and locking them in a room alone.

“Punishments need to be in line with effective disability or behaviour support and plans must be set up by the school and family in partnership. 

“In this case the parents made a complaint in July, and yet no one held the school to account. The person who suffered most was the child.

“We ask why this wasn’t picked up by the school itself, the Education Review Office or the Ministry of Education. Where else is this happening?”

IHC has taken legal action against the Ministry of Education to ensure all children get a fair go at school, are welcomed and have a safe learning environment in which to achieve.