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Door taken off seclusion room at NZ school

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/10/2016

The door has been taken off a small lockable "time-out" room used to discipline children at a New Zealand primary school and it will never be used again.

A Ministry of Education report released on Friday says Miramar Central School records show eight children were sent to the room since 2014 and four others were uncovered in an investigation by an independent specialist commissioned by the ministry.

There were at least 46 instances of the room's use in the school records, which were poorly kept.

The school has a special education needs unit and the ministry investigated the use of the room after the parents of an autistic boy complained in July.

The school only informed other parents of the investigation a week ago, sparking strong criticism on social media.

"The school has advised us they last used the seclusion room on September 20 and has now removed the door to the room so it can't be used again," the report says.

The ministry is working with the school on new, positive behaviour management policies and will release guidelines for all schools.

The room was being used in response to hitting, disruption, disobedience, as well as biting, kicking, choking and slapping, the report says.

School board member Peter McFarlane told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme the school had mucked up and was very sorry.

The teacher touched the boy's face because he had a sore tooth and he bit the teacher and was put in the room.

The boy is non-verbal and has a mental age of about two to three years.

Mr McFarlane said the school's special education unit had had a good reputation and the teachers "love these children".

People at the school were very emotional about what had happened and would like to put things right, he said. They wanted the boy to stay at the school.

The Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier is also investigating and the Commissioner for Children will assist with the investigation.

Judge Boshier said he will ask the Ministry of Education to issue an advisory to schools requiring any use of seclusion in schools be discontinued pending the outcome of the investigation.

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