The Guardian has reported that a mother has decided to bring legal action following her daughter’s suicide attempt in a UK school’s “isolation room.”
The woman whose child cannot be named is set to take action against the government. The child has autistic spectrum disorder and spent over a month in the isolation room, expected to stay silent with no directed teaching and only three toilet breaks a day.
A pre action letter from Simpson Millar read “[isolation] has caused her depression. It also led to her taking an overdose while in the isolation room itself,” they said. “Following pre-action correspondence from us, [the school] has removed her from isolation.”
The same firm took action on behalf of a boy who had ADHD had spent 35 days in isolation within one year. The academy’s policy meant that failing a day in isolation meant another day in isolation creating a perpetual cycle. The boy is said to have gone from being “a cheerful, bubbly boy” to developing “anxiety and depression.”
The use of isolation booths or consequence rooms has been criticised as being barbaric. With recent news that 45 schools in England excluded at least 20% of their pupils it would seem we are at a point where schools and academies are experiencing funding crisis to adequately educate or provide support for children with special needs so isolation is being used a one stop shop to fix behavioural problems alongside excessive measures such as exclusion.
A recent report has shown that pupils with special needs or impoverished backgrounds are more statistically likely to be expelled and are also more likely to be sent to isolation rooms.
Sitting children in rooms for long periods of time with sensory deprivation, no socialisation and no direct teaching is tantamount to an early experience of prison.
One academy’s policy reads;
“You will be allowed to go to the toilet up to a maximum of three times during the day (maximum five minutes per visit),” the policy reads. “You must use the closest toilet and go directly there and back. You will be escorted to get your lunch, but you must stay silent.” one mother whose son had lost out on days of education said “It’s a small booth. They can’t look left or right, they can’t look behind. They have to focus in front all the time. They can’t speak to anyone for the whole day. It’s basically an internal exclusion. It’s barbaric.”
In light of increasing mental health issues amongst our children (One in ten of them have mental health issues) this writer finds it downright disturbing that schools are using such punitive measures which will not only contribute to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem but can also perpetuate the obesity crisis by expecting some children to sit a booth for up to 8 hours at a time.
As the government is only now paying attention to the use of such extreme disciplinary action under the assault of lawsuits hitting the Department of Education we propose that parents start to take a stand against these overzealous punitive measures and act the questions of their schools what their stance on isolation is and ask to see their policy on the matter.
“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” – John Stuart Mill
Schools can take measures to improve their onsite commodities for children with special needs by installing standing desks which hundreds of schools in the UK now employ as a measure to help fidgety or SEN kids keep focus whilst being afforded some freedom of movement which reduces in class disruptions significantly.