Already in Australia in the last 12 months or so there have been a disturbing number of cases coming to light where autistic and other disabled children are being placed in isolation and restraint conditions to manage their behaviour.
Just this week I read about the notorious cage in the classroom situation in Canberra again. Now it’s being investigated by the United Nations. This particular case was in the media around a year ago and has come back to light due to the United Nations involvement.
Tonight as I watched the Australian ABC current affairs program 7:30 I have confronted again with another case. This time, a cage placed in the playground labelled the Top Playground. As the story unfolded I was distraught and enraged by the response of the person in charge. This person is in charge of several schools, claimed the parent’s complaint was at odds with the investigation that was conducted. In other words – we are claiming what the parent said is false.
The investigation, of course, was not independent, it was conducted by the school principal. So in effect, the parent complaint has been investigated and cast aside by the person with the most to gain by that outcome.
This would be horrendous if it was an isolated incident. But it isn’t so it is beyond horrendous. It is, in my view, a systemic problem which allows and fosters disabled children to be abused by those that are meant to foster, protect, teach and mentor them through their educational journey.
The school at the centre of this particular incident is, believe it or not, a specialist autism school, one of several in a group under the auspices of ASPECT Schools. Perhaps what’s worse is that these schools operate under the guise of ASPECT a peak autism organisation in Australia.
The question must be asked, if this can and does happen in so-called speciality autism educational environments, what hope can autistic students and their family have of being protected from abuse in any educational system in this country. Remember this is just the latest in a litany of incidents that have come to light across Australia.
To name a few, there has been the Boy in the Cage in the ACT school
There have been the children in the locked room at special schools in Bendigo Victoria
There have been incidents of pressure points being used on disabled children in special education schools in Bendigo.
There have been incidents in Western Australia and Queensland also, though I do not have the details to hand.
Children locked in dark rooms. Young boys and girls restrained to chairs. Cages constructed in classrooms and playgrounds.
This is a systemic failure of education systems across the country and something must be done about it. This can not continue to be tolerated. Action must take place. The perpetrators of this abuse must, at the very least be relieved of their positions. They simply must not be able to continue to be in positions of power and influence over vulnerable children.
In recent years our successive federal governments have rightly begun Royal Commissions and investigations in situations of the sexual abuse of children and more recently the abuse of Indigenous Children in juvenile detention. I believe this issue too is worthy of such treatment. If we are having this number of cases beginning to come to light, it is a sure thing that they are just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more disabled children experiencing abuse and trauma at the hands of the educational institutions that should are charged with caring for them.
It is a given that disabled people struggle for services and find it extremely difficult to secure meaningful employment. Let’s not add a likelihood of abuse and trauma to occur due to attendance at school.
The abuse and trauma of disabled people must stop. These schools must be called to account. Independent investigations must take place, internal investigations by those with the most to gain by a positive finding must not be tolerated.