Alberta's biggest school boards ask province to overturn seclusion room ban

Alberta’s four largest school boards have asked the education minister to reconsider a ban imposed by the previous provincial government on the use of seclusion rooms in schools.

The board chairs and superintendents of the Calgary Board of Education, Calgary Catholic School District, Edmonton Catholic Schools and Edmonton Public Schools met with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange on Thursday to discuss the ban, which is set to take effect at the start of this school year.

“Our four school districts serve student populations with a variety of diverse and complex needs,” the boards said in a statement Friday. “We believe there are circumstances where the use of seclusion/calming rooms is appropriate.”

Then-NDP education minister David Eggen issued a ministerial order on Feb. 28 that banned seclusion rooms for the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

In October 2018, Eggen formed a working group of parents, teachers and other experts to create guidelines on the use of timeout and seclusion rooms.

That review was launched after a Sherwood Park couple sued the government, saying their 12-year-old son had been found covered in his own feces when he was locked in a seclusion room.

In the joint statement issued Friday, the four boards said they have “specialized programs” with staff trained extensively to support students “who may exhibit unsafe behaviours that could cause harm to themselves, other students and staff.

“Our school districts strongly support inclusion in our classrooms; our professional educators work hard to build classrooms that respect the needs of all students,” the statement says.

” A ban on the use of seclusion rooms limits how school authorities can address exceptional cases and still ensure the safety of all students and staff in a school community. These concerns have also been raised by teachers who work with students with significant complex learning needs, as well as parents of these students.”

The ministerial order issued by the previous government remains in effect, Colin Aitchison, press secretary for the office of the education minister, said Friday in an email.

“Minister LaGrange values the input from the metro boards, and will be reviewing their feedback on this issue,” Aitchison said. “Alberta Education will continue to work with partners in the education system to ensure the safety of all our students and staff.”

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