New rules are being created as to how, and when, teachers and principals throughout Alberta can use seclusion rooms.
The use of seclusion rooms was banned by the NDP-led provincial government earlier this year, with then-Minister of Education David Eggen stating that “as a parent and a former teacher, I’ve been disturbed by some of the incidents I’ve heard about involving seclusion rooms” in a March release.
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Little over half a year later and the new Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange has announced that the ministerial order banning the use of the rooms has been repealed as of September 1.
“Everyone involved in a school shares the same priority: to have a safe, caring and inclusive environment for everyone. Since becoming minister, I have received numerous letters from our partners in the school system – including the Alberta Teachers’ Association – asking me to rethink the former government’s short-sighted approach to seclusion rooms and student safety,” LaGrange said in the recent statement.
“In fact, almost every stakeholder I encountered on this issue – school boards, teachers, administrators and parents – clearly tell me that a full ban limits a school’s ability to protect the safety of everyone, and to work in partnership to revise the existing policy.”
The release states that new standards will be put into place later this year, following 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.
“After careful consideration and a lot of listening to those directly affected, I have decided to move forward together with our partners in a more measured way, which is the right thing to do for the right reason,” LaGrange said in the release.
“I understand the urgency of this work, which is why I have directed my department to work immediately with our partners, such as school boards, Inclusion Alberta and the Alberta Teachers’ Association, to finalize how this tool can be used and how the system will be held accountable.”
Between September 1 and the implementation of the new set of standards, interim standards will remain in effect, which state that “seclusion and physical restraint are emergency or safety procedures that are to be used in exceptional situations for immediately preventing harm to self or others.”
it is also noted in the Standards for Seclusion and Physical Restraint In Alberta Schools document that seclusion or physical restraint should be used as a last resort.
Another document, Standards for Time-out in Alberta Schools, specifies 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.
The new standards are expected to be put into place by October.