Tomorrow, our board will be debating and voting on a motion I put forward on the use of seclusion rooms and involuntary confinement in school. I have introduced this motion because I believe that our board needs to have a public debate about this issue, to provide input to the provincial government while they gather feedback on the Interim Standards for Seclusion and Physical Restraint in Alberta Schools and the Interim Standards for Time-Out in Alberta Schools, and to advocate for necessary changes.
Trustees have heard from parents who have described feelings of powerlessness when their child has been restrained or confined, and we’ve heard from teachers and staff who are trying their best to meet the needs of their students and who tell us that they need seclusion rooms to keep people safe. But I don’t think that there is a teacher or staff member who wants to place a student in involuntary confinement.
When seclusion rooms are the solution to a problem, then I believe we need to start tackling the problem. To work on it, we need to think systemically and look at the big picture of education in our province. With this motion, I am hoping to look at what we can work towards: a system where seclusion rooms are no longer needed or used.
The first part of this motion is re-affirming the first step: ensuring that no student is placed in a room involuntarily as a way to manage their behaviour or as a form of punishment. To re-affirm that these rooms should only be used as a last resort in an emergency situation to keep people safe. I believe that this is already spelled out in our District’s new administrative regulation, District Seclusion Rooms. The main addition to this discussion is clear advocacy to the province to ensure that dedicated time-out rooms are also not used as a form of punishment or behaviour management.
I also think that we need to start looking beyond that, at the next steps, at what needs to change with our system so that we can work towards better supports for our students and teachers and staff. The second part of this motion allows our board to discuss and take a position on what needs to change to make sure that our system of social supports, health care, and education are working together, to make sure that we have the right professionals, the right training, the right supports, and the right funding so that we no longer need or use these rooms.