Medicine Hat man shares seclusion room experiences, hopes new rules done right
Published Tuesday, September 10, 2019 11:28AM MDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 10, 2019 10:27PM MDT
Between the ages of six and nine years old, Jayden Skinner says he’d sometimes spend days at a time in a locked seclusion room in the basement of his Medicine Hat school.
Now, the 20-year-old is hoping the Alberta government makes the right decision in setting new rules so that the rooms aren’t misused by teachers and school staff.
"These rooms traumatized people," said Skinner in an interview at his Medicine Hat apartment.
Though Skinner acknowledges he wasn’t always the perfect student when he was younger, he says the majority of the time that he was sent to a seclusion room was as a punishment, not for the purpose of calming him down.
"You go into them and you just know this is a big pit of misery. You know that no one’s ever been happy in one of these places, nobody’s ever had good times here."
On September 1st, a ministerial order banning the use of seclusion rooms in Alberta was repealed by the new provincial government. Education minister Adriana LaGrange called the ban, which was put in place by the former NDP government, a "short-sighted approach to seclusion rooms and student safety."
The government established interim guidelines for the use of the rooms and is working with school boards to establish permanent rules in the next month.
"The previous ban on seclusion rooms allowed for exemptions to be approved for entire school districts," said Inclusion Alberta president Barb MacIntyre in August.
Skinner, who described the seclusion rooms "like solitary confinement, like jail," says he’s speaking out because he doesn’t want other kids to experience the trauma he says he endured. "I’m sharing it so that somebody, maybe in our government, will watch it and think maybe it isn’t a good idea to throw an unruly kid in a room and locking him in there the whole day."
The alternative education program where Skinner says he experienced the seclusion rooms no longer exists in Medicine Hat, but some Alberta school board still employ the practise, sometimes referred to as calming or time out rooms.
As part of the interim rules, school boards will now need to provide a monthly report to the government on how many times a seclusion room was used. The new rules are expected to be in place by the end of October.