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Time-out, Seclusion and Physical Restraint in Alberta Schools: Guidelines are not enough

On February 15, 2019 CACL’s member organization, Inclusion Alberta released the results of its 2018 survey examining the use of time-out, seclusion and physical restraint in Alberta schools. The results of the survey, which included over 214 comments from parents, demonstrated the widespread and frequent use of these practices as well as the overwhelmingly harmful effects of their use. Data showed that in many cases, parents and guardians were not made aware that these techniques were being used or were pressured into providing consent.

The release of these findings come after Inclusion Alberta, together with parents, were involved in bringing the use of seclusion rooms to the attention of government officials and the public in 2018. In response to their calls for action, the Minister of Education David Eggen formed a working group to study the issue and produce a draft document of recommendations on the use of time-out, seclusion and physical restraint in Alberta schools. While parents were involved in the working group, some have expressed disappointment that the resulting guidelines produced by this group have done little or nothing to address the issue and continue to lack enforceability and accountability mechanisms.

In January 2019, Inclusion Alberta, the Autism Society of Alberta and parents jointly prepared a letter, available here, which was sent to the Premier of Alberta and the Minister of Education, in response to the draft guidelines. Among other concerns, the letter calls for the replacement of guidelines and expectations, which are optional by nature, with obligatory requirements for reporting the use and effectiveness of these techniques. It calls for the introduction of accountability mechanisms, measurable monitoring and public reporting by the Department of Education. The continued use of dedicated “time-out” rooms or comparable dedicated spaces, or of seclusion as a regular strategy in a student’s education plan, is emphatically opposed.

Following the release of Inclusion Alberta’s survey last Friday, Minister Eggen was quick to make a public statement agreeing that the use of seclusion rooms in schools must be banned. While this has been recognized as a significant step forward, advocates are eager to see a concrete plan.