Parents sue Alberta government after son locked, naked, in ‘seclusion room’

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The parents of a boy with autism who is non-verbal are suing his teacher and principal, the school board and the Alberta government after they claim he was locked — naked and unsupervised — in a seclusion room at an Edmonton school in 2015, where he was later found covered in his own feces.

Marcy Oakes and Warren Henschel claim in the lawsuit that their then-12-year-old son Aidan was the victim of “malfeasance” and had his Charter rights violated during the incident.

“This was inhumane,” Oakes told CTV Edmonton. “This was treating him like an animal.”

The parents allege that Aidan was left in the seclusion room, which had paper taped over the windows, at Clover Bar Junior High School for quite some time before school officials contacted them, emailing them a photograph of Aidan naked and covered in feces.

When Henschel arrived at the school, he was shocked.

“When I looked inside the room, it’s hard to describe my feelings,” he said.

Oakes and Henschel claim that sending Aidan to a seclusion room was never part of his learning or behavioural support plans.

They are seeking a total of $275,000 in damages for injuries to Aidan’s emotional, psychological and physical well-being.

The allegations, which are disputed by school officials, have not been proven in court.

A spokesperson for Elk Island Public Schools said in a statement that the school district would “strongly defend” the actions of its staff in court.

Meanwhile, the province’s education minister and Inclusion Alberta, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of parents and children with disabilities, have vowed to take a closer look at the practice of isolating children with behavioural issues in seclusion rooms.

“It’s important that there are standards and accountability that’s associated with seclusion rooms and that they’re only used as a last resort,” David Eggen, Alberta’s education minister, said.

Bruce Uditsky, the chief executive officer of Inclusion Alberta, told CTV Edmonton that “there isn’t any evidence to suggest that a seclusion room is a means to remedy a child’s difficulties.”

He added that it is not clear how many schools have seclusion rooms or how often they are used, so his group has launched an online survey in order to collect more data.

“As far as we know this is the first effort even in this province to get some understanding and sense to what degree this is taking place,” Uditsky said.

With a report from CTV Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson





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