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ACT Government finally responds to school cage incident

By Marcus Paul - 8 September 2015 67

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It’s been 165 days since the ACT Government discovered a cage was built in one of its schools for a 10-year-old student with autism.

We found out today that the school’s principal has been sacked, and will no longer be able to work at any ACT Government school. The inquiry, overseen at arm’s length from Minister Joy Burch’s office, found the principal was solely responsible for the incident.

Minister Burch told my radio program she felt physically ill after learning of the “cage-like structure”. She says the decision to erect such a thing was made without input, consultation or approval from the school or the directorate.

She also says the structure was commissioned by the school, under the instruction of the principal, and constructed by an external builder. Although reluctant to name it as a cage, the ACT Government has today confirmed it was constructed of pool fencing and had a roof.

It’s understood the structure was designed as a space for a student to calm down. It was also used when the student needed a quiet space.

So why was such a structure constructed in the first place? Well, according to the minister, the child was believed to have been physically abusive towards his teacher and other students. Was the cage was constructed for his explicit use? Unfortunately, yes.

This will not be the end of the issue, with another inquiry into the broader issue of special needs teaching in the ACT still underway.

Many parents with autistic children have contacted me. They are dismayed and angered by the current system, which they claim does not place enough emphasis on support services for children with special needs.

It is hoped this further inquiry will address the many concerns which remain outstanding. The ACT Human Rights Commission will no doubt strongly monitor the situation.

What is clear however, is that the ACT Education Directorate must now also go on notice. 165 days is simply too long to wait for today’s outcome. We were told by the minister that the initial inquiry would be handed down within weeks – and it seemed to take media pressure to finally end up with a result.

Whilst I appreciate that Education Director-General Diane Joseph needed some time to work through the issue, this has taken far too long. Too long and too much distress for the child’s family, and too long for the parents of other children here in Canberra with special needs.

Marcus Paul is the host of Canberra Live 3pm weekdays on 2CC.

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67 Responses to
ACT Government finally responds to school cage incident
alllenthough 7:19 pm 08 Sep 15

I have just read the city news and its summary of facts and outcomes on the CAGE LIKE STRUCTURE or cage as I like to call it. Points 9 to 11 are laughable. To say that ACT teachers and principals have access to specialist behavioural support is true, as they have recently filled positions and restructured the teams SINCE this incident. Teachers have just taken a hit in pay to ensure their are more school counsellors, so they obviously believe their is not enough support from counsellors or would not have had this put in their enterprise agreement. What most reflects the state of executive management of the education department is Diane Joseph placing more directors between herself having to accept any responsibility rather than fund support kiddies

murf6333 6:43 pm 08 Sep 15

I totally agree London,
But a cage takes planning and forethought and organising, surely something else could have been done?
There have been time that even even the autistic unit the special teacher aides had to call my wife or I to come and at least try and calm our son!
Maybe this is a parent thing, maybe the child was never formally diagnosed which means the avenues of support aren’t open.
The other children and the children’s welfare are paramount but only an animal belongs in a cage!

Ezy 6:09 pm 08 Sep 15

london said :

I don’t believe any school principal would put a child in a cage. If it is an area for a child to calm down and reflect that is completely different. Why should other children and teachers be at risk from badly behaved children. Teachers are at school to educate not manage the behavour of out of control students. Parents should be called to school to do this job. If you have never experienced this type of child out of control you should not comment.

This.

It is clear that this child required something special to be put in place so as not to hurt the other students or the teacher. The big question is why did this child not have a carer?

My wife is a teacher and has had to evacuate her classroom a number of times due to children behaving in a manner that is extremely violent. This is not an uncommon problem either and now students are suffering due to the teacher having to manage these sorts of disruptive behavioural problems.

At the end of the day, there needs to be more support staff for teachers to allow them to teach the rest of the class whilst the disruptions are dealt with safely and professionally.

murf6333 5:57 pm 08 Sep 15

As a child with autism let me say that “no child, special needs or not should not be put in a cage” and I would argue any parent that would like their child locked up like a caged animal!
Now saying that I know from experience that the ACT schooling system is under resourced to deal with these children and also that some children with special needs can never cope in mainstream schooling.

Nilrem 4:52 pm 08 Sep 15

Evilomlap said :

There were some kids at my school who probably *should* have been kept in cages.

Seriously, what exactly took 165 days? For the principal to be fired? Or for this to be made public?

This was truly the Colonle Kurtz of the ACT public education. But it never happened, or at least no-one else was involved…so what kind of oversight does the Directorate exercise over schools? How does a principal get to do stuff like this with no-one raising an eyebrow?

Nilrem 4:46 pm 08 Sep 15

Alexandra Craig said :

Nilrem said :

Marcus Paul said :

I have chosen NOT to name the school or principal out of respect for the child’s family.

How does it respect the child’s family to not name the school or principal? It keeps the rest of the community in the dark, and I can see no benefit whatsoever to the child and his/her family to be gained from withholding that information.

If the family wanted to be known I’m sure they’d come out and make themselves known. Their privacy should be respected.

But why would releasing the details of the school or principal affect their privacy? Provided any indetifying details were removed from any material released, their privacy would still be preserved, and the citizens and parents of the ACT might find out more about a scandal that is being very incompetently covered up, with the collaboration of unquestioning journalists.

Nilrem 4:43 pm 08 Sep 15

“The inquiry, overseen at arm’s length from Minister Joy Burch’s office, found the principal was solely responsible for the incident.

Minister Burch told my radio program she felt physically ill after learning of the “cage-like structure”. She says the decision to erect such a thing was made without input, consultation or approval from the school or the directorate.

Errr, so the Principal was running the school like some kind of rogue dictatorship? He/She consulted no-one else in the School? They didn’t provide any input or feedback to the Principal? Really? So someone has been executed and now everything is dandy? Please explain.

Evilomlap 4:36 pm 08 Sep 15

There were some kids at my school who probably *should* have been kept in cages.

Seriously, what exactly took 165 days? For the principal to be fired? Or for this to be made public?

Alexandra Craig 4:35 pm 08 Sep 15

Nilrem said :

Marcus Paul said :

I have chosen NOT to name the school or principal out of respect for the child’s family.

How does it respect the child’s family to not name the school or principal? It keeps the rest of the community in the dark, and I can see no benefit whatsoever to the child and his/her family to be gained from withholding that information.

If the family wanted to be known I’m sure they’d come out and make themselves known. Their privacy should be respected.

Alexandra Craig 4:33 pm 08 Sep 15

london said :

I don’t believe any school principal would put a child in a cage. If it is an area for a child to calm down and reflect that is completely different. Why should other children and teachers be at risk from badly behaved children. Teachers are at school to educate not manage the behavour of out of control students. Parents should be called to school to do this job. If you have never experienced this type of child out of control you should not comment.

I’m not disputing that the child has behaviour that’s difficult to manage, but how many other kids, exactly like him, have been managed effectively without having to resort to a cage? Plenty, I’m sure.

And early reports suggest that it was not an area for the child to reflect and calm down, it was the child’s permanent spot as far as I’m aware.

london 4:15 pm 08 Sep 15

I don’t believe any school principal would put a child in a cage. If it is an area for a child to calm down and reflect that is completely different. Why should other children and teachers be at risk from badly behaved children. Teachers are at school to educate not manage the behavour of out of control students. Parents should be called to school to do this job. If you have never experienced this type of child out of control you should not comment.

Alexandra Craig 4:12 pm 08 Sep 15

Masquara said :

Why hasn’t the principal been named?

Marcus Paul said :

I have chosen NOT to name the school or principal out of respect for the child’s family.

I noticed that the Canberra Times aren’t naming the principal either. Basically so people don’t find out who the child is. Poor kid.

Nilrem 4:06 pm 08 Sep 15

Marcus Paul said :

I have chosen NOT to name the school or principal out of respect for the child’s family.

How does it respect the child’s family to not name the school or principal? It keeps the rest of the community in the dark, and I can see no benefit whatsoever to the child and his/her family to be gained from withholding that information.

Marcus Paul 4:00 pm 08 Sep 15

I have chosen NOT to name the school or principal out of respect for the child’s family.

Masquara 3:44 pm 08 Sep 15

Why hasn’t the principal been named?

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