In The Media | 29 July 2016

School is not always a safe place for students with disability – this has to change

The United Nations has been asked to investigate dozens of incidents in which children with disabilities were allegedly assaulted, locked in dark rooms and restrained in Australian schools.

Although there is no research as to how widespread this problem is, these cases point to a wider concern that students are experiencing a range of harms in schools, and that teachers are struggling to support students with increasingly complex needs.

Multiple inquiries have shown that system failures within the education sector often result in abuse and trauma.

Following extensive hearings, last year’s Senate Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability recommended the elimination of restrictive practices against children as a national priority.

A recent large report by the Victoria Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission into experiences of school students with disability found that of the 900 teachers who responded, 60% reported having used restraint. Just over half also said they were inadequately trained to deal with this situation.

The costs of this are too high for children and families, and alarm many working in schools.

Taking concerns about harm of students to the UN is a strong indication that existing systems are not working for at least some students with disability.

Source: The Conversation