Hekia Parata knew about seclusion rooms a year ago - family

Education Minister Hekia Parata (Newshub)
Education Minister Hekia Parata (Newshub)

A family complained to Education Minister Hekia Parata over a year ago about a seclusion room being used to discipline their son.

They’ve released the letter, which advised the Minister of "grave concerns" regarding the treatment of their son at Ruru Specialist School in Invercargill.

Those concerns included alleged "psychological abuse" and "unexplained bruising".

Hekia Parata knew about seclusion rooms a year ago - family

"We requested to be shown 'the little room' which our son had verbalized in the past to us," the parents wrote in the letter.

"We were taken through two locked doors and shown a seclusion room at the school in which our son had been confined without our knowledge.

"The room measured 1.3m x 1.8m and 3.3m in height. It had no windows to view, no light, no heating, noway of getting out (no door handle, and swipe card access), old carpet on walls, and an aged raw concrete floor. It was barbaric."

The Ministry of Education engaged an independent investigator to look into the family’s concerns.

Ms Parata told the family she’d directed the school’s Board of Trustees to "develop a full action plan" around recommendations from the investigator’s report.

The Minister says the report found the room did not fit within the definition of seclusion.

"That report as you will know makes it clear that it wasn't defined as seclusion but we have come to, now, a definition," she said. 

Hekia Parata knew about seclusion rooms a year ago - family

Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty says the fact Ms Parata did not move to ban the use of seclusions rooms at that time is deplorable.

"It’s a bit rich for Hekia Parata to now claim credit for making seclusion rooms illegal, when she could have taken this action more than a year ago when seclusion rooms were first in the media," Catherine Delahunty said.

"Instead of acting to ban seclusion rooms at the earliest possible moment, she allowed their use to continue for more than a year."

The Ministry of Education is currently canvassing all schools to determine how many seclusion rooms have been in use.

"I am assured by the results so far that the issue is not widespread. The Ministry will work with any school that needs help to put in place safer and more inclusive and effective ways of managing challenging behaviour," says Ms Parata.