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Kids still being locked up, held down in B.C. schools: advocacy group

Inclusion BC says 170 parents, guardians reported their kids had been restrained or secluded

An advocacy group says children in B.C. are still being held down and confined in locked rooms, despite calls to change how educators address student behaviour.

Inclusion BC says it surveyed 170 parents and guardians who reported their kids had been restrained or secluded during the 2016-17 school year, and the vast majority of the students had special needs.

Faith Bodnar, the group’s executive director, said they heard about a child who was put in a plastic storage bin, another who was tied to a chair, and students who were locked in seclusion rooms for up to three hours.

The findings released Wednesday follow the group’s 2013 report on how restraint and seclusion were being used to address student behaviour in B.C. schools, which prompted calls for change.

Bodnar said she’s shocked that the practices continue without clear guidelines, and she’s wants the province to ban restraint and seclusion, except when personal safety is at risk.

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Education Minister Rob Flemming said he has reviewed the report and the government will make sure all school districts implement guidelines by the end of the year.

The provincial government brought in guidelines in 2015 aimed at helping school boards create policies for seclusion and restraint, including training for educators.

The Inclusion BC report says only one in three school boards across the province has policies in place. Creating clear, mandatory guidelines is necessary to protect children, Bodnar said.

“There are no regulatory standards for them,” she said. “There’s no oversight.”

The report also says only 19 per cent of caregivers surveyed reported that the school “always” or “usually” informed them of a restraint. All incidents should be documented and communicated to parents, Bodnar said.

Flemming said clear lines of reporting are needed between teachers, school districts and parents.

The incidents highlighted in the report are not isolated, Bodnar said, and “really severe, awful things” are happening to children at B.C. schools.

Flemming said the situations are “exceedingly rare,” but it’s disturbing that they happen at all.

“As a parent and as an education minister, I’m very disappointed to hear that there are individual stories that have been compiled in this report that are, frankly, unacceptable in a B.C. school setting,” he said.

The Canadian Press

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