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Stop Hurting Kids: Restraint and Seclusion in BC Schools

November 2013

Restraint and seclusion are being used repeatedly and systemically on students in British Columbia’s public schools, Inclusion BC and the Family Support Institute report. These practices, along with other disturbing incidents and patterns of conduct, are detailed in a report issued on November 21, 2013.

“Stop Hurting Kids: Restraint and Seclusion in BC Schools” includes data collected from an online survey of approximately 200 parents and guardians of children who had been restrained or secluded in British Columbia schools.  The report will be officially launched with a panel discussion on Friday, November 22 at Douglas College in New Westminster.

Restraint is the use of physical procedures or mechanical devices to limit freedom of movement, and seclusion is placement in an isolated area for an extended time and prevention from leaving that area. Click here for complete definitions.

“School should be a place that is welcoming and supportive for all students, not a place that isolates, alienates and humiliates as a result of seclusion and restraint,” said Faith Bodnar, executive director of Inclusion BC. “Most of the students who were restrained were 5 to 10 years old, just starting out in the school system. Restraint and seclusion have long-term emotional effects on children and youth, their families and communities where they live; over 75% of the students in our survey suffered emotional trauma.” For full details of the survey results, click here.

Parents reported that children were restrained in closets, isolation rooms, stairwells, and classrooms. Some parents reported that “prone holds,” “supine holds,” and “wrestling holds with pressure” were used on students. 10% of respondents said that their children had been secluded for over 3 hours, and 20% reported that this occurred on a daily basis.

“One of the most concerning figures in this survey is that 72% of parents learned about restraint or seclusion from someone other than the school,” said Bodnar. “This points to the fact that our survey is revealing only the tip of the iceberg in terms of restraint and seclusion in our schools. Clearly, this is about a systemic, fundamental problem, not an isolated event.”

Inclusion BC is calling for legislation and a targeted plan of action from the BC Ministry of Education to prevent the serious and egregious harm done to students in public schools as a result of the ongoing use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

The fact that 49 of the families in the survey reported that they removed their child from public school because of this issue and 80% reported that they were unsatisfied with the school district’s handling of the issue calls for the Ministry of Education to take action now.

“We are all very concerned about the bullying that happens between students. It is clear from our survey that we should be even more concerned about the bullying that is inflicted by schools on students through seclusion and restraints.” Bodnar said. Inclusion BC and the Family Support Institute are recommending that the Ministry of Education institute regulations against the use of restraint and seclusion, and require that all instances of their use are documented and reported to the Ministry. For more information on our recommendations, please click here.

Inclusion BC is a provincial advocacy organization with over 70 member agencies dedicated to building community and enhancing the lives of children and youth with special needs, adults with developmental disabilities, and their families by supporting abilities, promoting action and advancing rights and social justice.

The Family Support Institute was founded in 1986 in response to the request and need of families of people with disabilities for an independent organization that would "strengthen families faced with the extraordinary circumstances that come with having a family member who has a disability." Believing that families are the best resources available to support one another, FSI organizes training for local parents as volunteers in communities across BC to be regional resource parents.

Survey Resources: