MAPLE RIDGE (NEWS 1130) – The mother of 10-year-old boy with autism is demanding an apology after she says her son was inappropriately restrained and secluded at an elementary school in Maple Ridge.
Judy Lee says the practice is only supposed to be used if a student is at risk of harming themselves or others, but claims it was used on her son Kaden at Kanaka Creek Elementary back in July after he refused to stop reading a book and move on to another activity.
“He wasn’t kicking, he wasn’t violent, and the five adults cornered him, where the principal and one of the teachers lifted him up from under his armpit, where his toes were dragging, and placed him in an seclusion room,” Lee told NEWS 1130.
Teachers also wouldn’t let Kaden out until he finished a worksheet on compromise, according to Lee.
“It’s bad enough that they restrained him, it’s bad enough that they secluded him, but they refused to let him out until he complied and that’s against the rule,” said Lee, who went to the school shortly after getting a call from the principal about the incident.
“I can hear my child begging ‘please let me out, I promise I’ll be good’ and the teacher’s assistant who was in there said to him, ‘Well, Kaden you can come out when you finish your work.'”
Lee says Kaden, who is verbal, hasn’t been going to school regularly since the incident because he panics, screams, and runs away when he sees the teachers involved. She claims the school hasn’t apologized or tried to fix the situation in the months since.
“I’m just feeling so helpless because nobody is willing to help my little boy, nobody is willing to help us,” she said. “All I wanted was for the teacher to come tell me and him that ‘You know what, we didn’t make such a wise choice that day.'”
A ‘Physical Restraint and/or Seclusion’ report given to Lee from School District 42 details what the school says led to the incident.
(Photo courtesy: Judy Lee)
“Student had a ‘must do’ activity. He was given two options — to participate in ‘colouring conversation’ or calm down in room outside,” the report reads. “Student was trying to push past adults and enter class room. After multiple attempts to verbally change behavior, student was moved to small room.”
The top of the report calls restraint or seclusion an “emergency procedure.”
Harry Dhillon, deputy superintendent at the Maple Ridge School District, wouldn’t speak to the specific incident involving Kaden, but acknowledged their policy states that restraint and seclusion are only to be used when there student is in imminent danger of hurting themself or others, adding it’s supposed to end when that danger is over.
“Seclusion and/or restraint is to end when the student is no longer creating a situation of unsafety (sic) for themselves or others,” he said. “The procedure clearly states that seclusion is not to be used to induce compliance or for disciplinary or punishment reasons.”
But Lee says the incident points to a larger issue with care for special needs students.
“There’s hundreds of parents in B.C. with special needs kids that are, if not worse situation, at least the same level of abuse that the school is doing to these kids.”