Abolish Cruelty in Special Needs Education

Target: Ministry of Education, British Columbia

Goal: Stop the use of harmful restraints and seclusion in disciplining children with special needs

Cruel disciplinary practices are reportedly being used on students with special needs in British Columbia. Students with learning disabilities or developmental disabilities like autism are being secluded and restrained at school.  Some teachers do not understand the causes of these students’ behaviors and are unable to respond in an appropriate and effective way, but the methods being implemented most recently are unacceptable. The use of restrains and seclusion as a form of punishment must be stopped.

Students who “act out” are often secluded, made to sit in closets or empty stairwells, and isolated from their peers and instructors. This isolation is not effective in getting at the root of the maladaptive behavior, and can be psychologically traumatic for young children. Most children being secluded in this way are only between the ages of five and ten, making this form of punishment emotionally traumatic.

Sometimes students are also restrained, occasionally causing physical injury and pain. Though there are safe, harmless ways of physically restraining a child who will harm themselves or others, it is doubtful that these are the practices being used. This should also be determined a part of a child’s treatment plan, made known to teachers and staff by the child’s parents with written documentation by their therapist before used by school faculty. There is no excuse for causing harm to a child; and physical pain and injury is not a humane or effective form of discipline.

To make matters worse, parents are most often not even made aware of the disciplinary measures taken in response to their children’s behaviors. If isolation or restraints are used in disciplinary practices in school, especially for children with special needs, these incidents need to be well-documented. Written incident reports should be signed by the teachers and staff involved, outlining the child’s behavior and the staff member’s response to the behavior, with a copy given to the parent at the end of the school day in which the incident occurred. Parents should most certainly be made aware of their children’s maladaptive behaviors in school, and what action the teachers are taking to address the issue. Tell the Canadian Ministry of Education that something needs to be done to stop children with special needs from being harmed in school.


Dear Ministry of Education,

There have recently been reports of cruel disciplinary measures being taken, especially against students with special needs, in your schools. It is not safe or effective to use seclusion or restraint in disciplining children without proper training and a well-designed treatment plan created by the child’s therapist, for those students with special needs. Most of the children who are subject to this type of harmful discipline are only between the ages of five and ten. Isolation and physical injury will cause long-term emotional and psychological damage to children, especially at such a young age.

Please stop allowing children in your school system to be treated this way. Place strict requirements on your teachers, forbidding them from using seclusion and restraint in classroom discipline. If a student’s family gives a teacher proper documentation indicating that restraint is needed in circumstances in which the student poses a threat to himself or others, then the teacher should be trained on the proper restraint method to use, one which does not cause physical pain or injury to the child. In these rare cases, if the teacher needs to use restraint as a disciplinary measure in school then he or she must be required to file an incident report, describing the child’s behavior and a detailed account of the teacher’s disciplinary response. A copy must be given to the parent on the day of incident.

You must put these measures in place immediately before more of your children suffer physical and emotional damage.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Crimfants via Wikimedia

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