Vancouver elementary schools that have time-out or "safe rooms" for out-of-control students at risk of hurting themselves or others may continue to use them, the board of education decided Monday.
Board chair Patti Bacchus said trustees voted to keep the time-out rooms because of concerns about safety and the possibility that schools might seek medical exclusions for students if they didn't have the rooms as a last resort.
"I'd prefer we didn't use them, that we had such effective strategies there wouldn't be meltdowns (by students), but we haven't got there yet," she's quoted as saying in a story by Sun reporterKim Pemberton.
Bacchus said she visited two of the safe rooms after complaints were lodged by child advocate Barb Laird, who described the use of such rooms as abuse. Of the 11 elementary schools with special behavioural classes, three have time-out rooms: Renfrew, Waverley and John Norquay.
"It appalls me these three rooms are being used," Laird told the board last month. "They are taking the weakest kids in the system, the most vulnerable students, most who have been sexually or physically abused or have a mental illness or FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) through no fault of their own, and they do this to them - lock them away. If you or I did that as parents, our kids would be taken away from us. It's abuse."
But Bacchus said the rooms she visited are larger than a closet, have a window and the doors are never locked. They are used as a last resort, and when a student is placed inside, a staff member stays at the doorway, she added.
Trustee Jan Bouey was the only trustee who didn't support the motion. "My hope is we can have a school system where the use of such rooms isn't necessary, even as a last resort," she said.
The board's motion will require schools to file a report whenever the rooms are used.