18 Dec 2017

Seclusion of autistic boy 'unreasonable' - ombudsman

5:19 pm on 18 December 2017

A critical report into a school's unreasonable use of a seclusion room is a reminder of the need for "dignity and humanity" at all times, the chief ombudsman says.

Miramar Central School

The boy was locked in a "time out" room multiple times at Miramar Central School Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Over three weeks in 2016 the boy was locked in a "time out" room multiple times to manage his behaviour at Miramar Central School.

In one instance the boy was found in the dark room crying loudly and pleading to be let out.

In findings released today, chief ombudsman Peter Boshier found the Ministry of Education failed to provide schools with clear guidance in relation to the use of seclusion, and the school acted unreasonably.

Mr Boshier also recommended Miramar Central School provide a written apology to the child and his parent, as well as $3000 compensation.

He said he spoke to the parents about what they had to go through, and learnt they had to hire a counsellor for the boy after he had been locked in the room.

"This is a critical report and the end result of this being public, and we do make our reports public now, is that people are made publicly accountable. That's one heck of a price to pay," he told RNZ.

Mr Boshier said by complaining the family helped bring about a law change, which came into effect in May, making the use of seclusion rooms illegal.

"I just think we've got to be careful and sensitive about those times when the going gets tough and when we need to, in schools, manage difficult, challenging behaviour like this.

"This report of ours is a reminder of the need for dignity and humanity at all times and it's just something we should never ever forget and we should not take our eye off the ball."

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