Alberta’s United Conservative government has scrapped a ban on isolation rooms for disruptive children in schools that was set to take effect next week.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says she is listening to school boards, teachers and parents who say a ban on seclusion rooms limits a school’s ability to protect everyone’s safety.
“This is about preventing misuse and ensuring the well-being, safety and dignity of all students and staff,” she said.
The former NDP government had moved to ban seclusion rooms starting this school year, but the UCP reversed the decision shortly before the new year began.
Seclusion rooms are used when students with developmental disabilities act out and are potentially dangerous to their caregivers and teachers.
A report released earlier this month showed the controversial practice was used 716 times in Edmonton public schools during September.
The report said that in 468 cases where the rooms were used, 65 per cent of the time the student chose to go in as a way of self-managing.
The other 248 uses involved a group of the same 88 students who were placed there as a result of unsafe behaviour.
The new standards include design requirements for the room and that it must abide by all building, safety and fire codes. School divisions will be required to report on their use of seclusion and physical restraint on a regular basis.
LeGrange emphasized that seclusion and physical restraint are “tools of last resort.”
“In exceptional circumstances these procedures may need to be used from time to time, with the use of seclusion rooms as a last resort. I repeat that — seclusion rooms as a last resort,” she said Wednesday.
“I applaud school authorities that are looking for ways to limit their use and even working towards their total elimination.”
At the end of August, the board chairs and superintendents of the Calgary Board of Education, the Calgary Catholic School District, Edmonton Catholic Schools and Edmonton Public Schools urged the education minister to reconsider the ban on seclusion rooms in schools across the province.
When the UCP repealed the seclusion room ban a week later, it put into place an interim standard for the rooms.
The new standards for use of isolation rooms take effect on Nov. 1.
— Files from Global News online journalist Allison Bench and The Canadian Press.