School seclusion rooms to be investigated after damning report

School seclusion rooms to be investigated after damning report

The Chief Ombudsman will investigate the use of seclusion and timeout rooms in schools, after the Ministry of Education released a report into a school that used such a room to confine autistic pupils.

In the past, Miramar Central School used a tiny room as a seclusion space - but not any more.

"We closed it. I personally carried the door away so it can't be used again. Your kids are safe at our school," said Pete McFarlane, a member of the board of trustees.

A Ministry of Education report says the seclusion rooms are outdated and an ineffective form of discipline.

"Things have moved on enormously in thinking about how to manage and change kids' behaviour and there are much better ways of dealing," said the Ministry of Education's David Wales.

"It was used commonly for behaviour that, really, there are better ways of dealing with than putting a child in a locked room.

"The results of that can be traumatic for the child and it's really just not an okay thing to do at all."

Miramar Central School was not an isolated situation. Newshub understands the rooms are common in special education centres, reserved for the most extreme behaviour.

"Head-butting was one of them, punching, kicking, biting - those kinds of things," Mr McFarlane said.

The Chief Ombudsman on Friday announced an investigation into seclusion rooms - saying he'll look at Government policies around them.

The Ministry of Education is working on guidelines on the prospect of phasing out the use of the rooms, with the goal of eliminating them altogether. 

The report was sparked by revelations one special needs student had been put in the room 13 times over nine days.

"I was angry and upset, that didn't sound right to me," Mr McFarlane said.

"We've got a lot of work to do with our community to get back their trust."

The report said the room was used inconsistently, there was poor record keeping and poor communication with parents.

The Ministry says it doesn't know how many schools have the rooms, and is encouraging teachers to find other ways to deal with behavioural problems.