Alberta lays out standards for seclusion rooms, physical restraint in schools

Oct 25 2019, 9:36 am

The Province of Alberta has officially laid out the new standards for the use of seclusion rooms and physical restraints in Alberta’s schools.

Following a ban on the use of seclusion rooms by the NDP-led provincial government earlier this year, the newly elected UCP-led government announced that the order banning the use of the rooms had been repealed on September 1.

“The majority of our education partners told us that banning seclusion rooms limits a school’s ability to protect the safety of everyone,” said Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange in a release from the province.

“We listened and worked with our partners to provide school authorities with a measured approach for the use of these tools in schools. This is about preventing misuse and ensuring the well-being, safety and dignity of all students and staff.”

The Province of Alberta made public the new, permanent standards that the province’s schools will have to follow in order to use the rooms or physical restraint of any kind, which are expected to take effect on November 1.

The new standards are the result of input from members including the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the Alberta School Board Association, Inclusion Alberta, the Alberta School Councils’ Association, the College of Alberta School Superintendents, and the four metro school boards.

The new standards note that: “The use of seclusion and/or physical restraint may be necessary only in situations where a child’s/student’s behaviour poses significant imminent danger of serious physical harm to themselves or those around them.”

It is also outlined that seclusion rooms or physical restraint may only be used as a last resort in an emergency, and are not to be used as a form of punishment.

Even in a situation where a student is displaying destructive behaviour and destroying school property, if that student is not clearly at risk of harming themselves or other students, they cannot be placed into a seclusion room or physically restrained.

Schools that plan to use seclusion room/physical restraint will need to create an official policy, with consultation from parents/guardians, outlining the acceptable scenarios for such actions.

Another document, Standards for Time-out in Alberta Schools, notes how time outs differ from seclusion rooms, in that a time-out may include the child being relocated “to another fully or partially enclosed part of the immediate instructional setting or to another supervised location within the school (for example, the library, the principal’s office, counsellor’s office, another classroom or a dedicated time-out room),” though that, if a dedicated time-out room be used, it is not locked nor should it have a passive locking mechanism.

“Seclusion and physical restraint are tools of last resort. I applaud school divisions that are looking for ways to limit their use, and are even working towards their elimination,” LaGrange said in the recent release.

“What these standards do is provide clear guidance for how and when these tools are used, and they will hold the system accountable.”