Children in B.C. are at risk of being injured and traumatized by the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. These procedures are proven to produce severe trauma and physical harm and are experienced disproportionately by children with disabilities and additional support needs.
Both reports shared the results of two provincial surveys completed by parents and guardians across B.C. The findings were disturbing.
The initial 2013 report led to new provincial guidelines in 2015. These guidelines, from the Ministry of Education, encouraged school boards to develop policies to control the use of restraints and seclusion. They were also meant to strengthen accountability and to train staff in non-violent positive behaviour supports.
But the guidelines were voluntary.
In 2017, after finding that only one in three B.C. school boards had adopted policies on restraint and seclusion, Inclusion BC launched a follow-up provincial survey asking families about their children’s experiences in the 2016/17 school year.
The 2017 survey showed that the voluntary guidelines have failed to protect children from restraint and seclusion. The findings in both reports paint a deeply troubling picture of the trauma experienced by too many students with disabilities and additional support needs in B.C. schools.
In 2019, the Ministry of Education requested all school districts to have policies in place based upon the 2015 Provincial Guidelines on the use of restraint and seclusion by December of that year.
In continuation of out work to stop the use of restraint and seclusion in B.C. schools, we undertook a policy review to scan districts’ compliance with the 2019 directive. We have compiled the results in the Report on the Review of the Adoption of Policies on the Use of Physical Restraint and Seclusion in B.C.’s School Districts. Some of the findings include:
- As of March 2022, 59 out of 60 school districts have adopted a policy on the use of restraint and seclusion with inconsistent levels of compliance with the requirements established by the Provincial Guidelines for the content of the policy.
- Most school districts acknowledge the importance of Positive Behaviour Intervention Supports (PBIS) in the opening sections of their policies. However, only one school district included the specific definition of PBIS that applies in their district, and this is a requirement of the Provincial Guidelines.
- Only 21% (13) of B.C. schools districts have included in their policy the incident report form when it is a specific requirement of the Ministerial Guidelines.
- The Provincial Guidelines establish that school districts must provide training opportunities for staff in themes like positive behaviour interventions and support and de-escalation techniques. Only five school districts’ policies identify specific training that would be made available to staff.
We call on the B.C. Ministry of Education to do a full review on the content and implementation of the Provincial Guidelines. Every school district should present their documenting and reporting mechanisms, and superintendents should be able to inform of every incident in their district. The lack of reporting mechanisms and the disparity across reporting mechanisms generate a vacuum of information at the local and provincial levels about the use of these practices. This is concerning given that these practices and procedures cause significant harm and trauma to the children and youth on whom they are imposed.
What we Need Now
We know that educators want to provide safe, inclusive, and supportive classrooms. For this to happen we need regulatory oversight, clear standards, and supports and training.
We need provincial leadership that directs all school boards to have up-to-date policies, with requirements to report all incidents of the use of seclusion and restraint, and for all those working with students with disabilities and additional support needs to have training in positive behaviour support.
1. Provincial prohibition on the use of restraint and seclusion, except in very limited and specific situations, with all school boards required to adopt policies and procedures to demonstrate compliance.
2. School incident reporting requirements to strengthen accountability, inform parents, and trigger automatic reviews to ensure that positive behaviour support plans and staff training are in place.
3. Provincial support for training in positive behaviour supports and conflict de-escalation for teachers, support staff, administrators, and district staff.