Imagine getting your children ready for school in the morning. You make them breakfast, pack their lunch, and head out the door. You have every expectation that they will be happy and safe. But, what if your child has a disability and isn’t able to tell you about their day at school? Schools should be places that parents can trust. It never crosses your mind that your child may be in danger – at risk of physical or emotional harm.
Yet, for far too many children with an intellectual disability in classrooms across this country, physical or emotional harm are their reality.
Seclusion rooms are harmful and abusive, and yet continue to be used by schools throughout Canada. In 2018, hundreds of Alberta parents reported that their children with disabilities were regularly secluded without their knowledge or consent.
80% reported their children were traumatized and distressed. 19% reported physical injury. 15% reported physical pain. A British Columbia report found “… too many BC students are still being injured and traumatized by abusive, inappropriate, and outdated practices.”
The story is the same in many provinces in Canada. Governments have failed to prevent the seclusion and restraint of children who cannot speak for themselves.
Aidan’s story is horrific, but it is not unique.
Aidan has an intellectual disability, autism, and doesn’t communicate with words. He was 12 years old when he was locked, naked, in a seclusion room. His parents were contacted and advised to pick him up. Aidan’s Dad found him, 45 minutes later; alone, locked up, and whimpering. His father spent another 20 minutes looking for someone to unlock the door so he could comfort him and take him home.
Aidan’s parents have courageously taken the school district and Government of Alberta to court for the inhumane treatment of their son. They want to hold them accountable for their complete disregard for his emotional health and safety.
This legal case will have enormous implications for children with intellectual disabilities throughout the country.
We ask for your help so that other children and families do not experience what happened to Aidan and his parents. If Aidan’s case is unsuccessful, it will be disastrous for children with intellectual disabilities in Canada.
Provincial governments and school boards should never be able to claim that the safety and well-being of children with disabilities is not their responsibility as they are attempting to do in Aidan’s case.
Please help us end the use of seclusion rooms and ensure that all children are welcomed and included, like Aidan is now in his new school. It’s time to ensure that no child with a disability is ever again locked in a seclusion room and left there, alone and abandoned.
We need to raise $50,000 or more to help offset the legal costs for Aidan’s family and to defend the rights of children with disabilities.
Zuhy Sayeed and Claudia Semaniuk,
Co-Chairs, CACL Foundation