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School's use of time-out room questioned

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 8/10/2016

A New Zealand primary school is facing questions from parents about the use of a time-out room likened to a cell to discipline children.

Miramar Primary School in Wellington was investigated by the Ministry of Education after an 11-year-old boy was discovered locked in a room the size of a cupboard in July, distraught and alone, the NZ Herald reports.

The investigation found the child, who is autistic and has the intellectual age of a toddler, had been placed in the room 13 times in nine days for behaviour including grabbing people.

The school posted on its Facebook page that the room is no longer in use.

A communication from the board and staff would be sent to parents on Monday and could be picked up earlier at the school office, the board said.

There are several comments on the page expressing disgust at the use of the room.

One person said she was willing to hear both sides of the story after receiving an email about the matter but the email did not disclose the severity of the issue.

"I don't lock my children in a dark room with no way out when they misbehave at home and I sure as hell would not expect anybody else to discipline my child in the manner without my knowledge!!", the comment said.

David Wales, head of special education, told NZ Newsire the Ministry of Education was very concerned about any student being repeatedly locked in a time-out room.

The ministry became aware of this situation on July 25 when the parent made contact and immediately contacted the school.

"We commissioned an independent review of the time out room and met with the principal and board chair. We strongly recommended the school discontinue the use of the time out room," he said.

The ministry is continuing to work with the school and has also appointed an educational psychologist to work to implement new strategies for students.

"We know there are still a number of schools around the country that do occasionally use these rooms and Miramar Central has been one of them," Mr Wales said.

Schools are not obliged to report the use of such rooms and the law doesn't specifically prohibit the use of time out rooms.

Guidelines about the issue are due to go to schools next term.

"Our view is that it is an extremely serious intervention and schools should be working towards phasing it out," Mr Wales said.

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