A public school principal in Canberra, Australia, has been fired from her job for building a “calm down” cage to house a young boy with autism. The child is believed to have been physically abusive toward both his teacher and other students.
The 2-meter by 2-meter cage made out of blue metal fencing was constructed by an external contractor, paid for with $3,650 in school funds. The disturbing installation even had a roof and a rear door that could be latched shut.
Sadly enough, the staff even placed the autistic student – whose name, along with the school and principal’s hasn’t been made public – in the classroom cage on one occasion.
The cage, apparently built to provide the student with a calm place, was installed on March 10 and dismantled just 14 days later after the ACT Education and Training Directorate found out about the atrocity and ordered the school to remove it.
The education department asked for an independent inquiry, which ran for more than five months and has only recently revealed that the principal was the sole instigator of the decision to build the cage. It had been constructed "without input, consultation or approval from within the school or the directorate.”
As punishment for her outrageous act, the principal is not allowed to teach at a government school again.
While the news about the cage broke out some time ago, the emergence of these heartbreaking pictures has instigated uproar among parents, who are complaining about being kept in dark all throughout the investigation.
“I accept that the community rightly wanted answers as to how such a structure came to be,” said ACT Education Minister Joy Burch. “Information about this is now freely available to the public.”
Calling the cage “disgusting,” she also slammed the media for publishing the pictures.
“Publishing [these photos do] not assist in getting to the truth or add any more insight as to why it was constructed,” she added.
As disturbing as the incident was, it surely serves as a wakeup call and has sparked a debate on how schools are supposed to deal with children with extreme behavior.
The ACT directorate's Director General Dianne Joseph claimed that authorities checked other schools to ensure no others are using such humiliating behavior control techniques. She also acknowledged that schools regularly use withdrawal spaces for students with special needs.
“These spaces can take a range of options and are implemented regularly – they could be a learning support assistant take someone outside for a walk in the school grounds, or it could be a safe reading corner still visible but around the corner,” she explained.
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