Autistic kids ‘tied to chairs’ at school, Senate inquiry told

Autistic children are being locked in cages, tied to chairs and shut in storerooms at school, parents have told a Senate inquiry.

One mother has alleged that a teacher at a special school threatened to cut off her son’s fingers, leaving him afraid of going to class.

Children with Disability Australia has told the Senate inquiry into students with disabilities that one unnamed school took no action­ when a boy kicked and knocked over a Year 2 girl with a disability.

“Two weeks later she was found at lunchtime hanging by a rope, tied under her armpits, from the top of the slide in the playground,’’ its submission states.

“Her mother was not told in person but read about it in the communication book used for regular written correspondence from teachers.’’

The inquiry into students with disabilities, chaired by Labor Senator Sue Lines, has been told how some schools have segregated children in windowless storage rooms and broom closets.

One child was sent to an outdoor area teachers referred to as the “pig pen’’, with just a gum tree for shade and no supervision.

A parent withdrew his son from school after six teachers alleg­edly chased him, after the boy walked out of the classroom without permission.

Another child was tied with a rope to a chair in a daycare centre “because he wouldn’t sit and listen­ to story time’’, another paren­t told the inquiry.

A Canberra school principal was sacked recently after building a classroom cage for a 10-year-old student with autism.

Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe called yesterday for an increase to the $3 billion spent on disabled students each year.

Official data compiled by state and territory education departments for the federal government’s review of school disability funding shows the number of stud­ents with a disability is much higher than the number now used to calculate taxpayer support.

Nearly 100,000 Australian students have been identified with a disability, based on the preliminary data gleaned from 20 per cent of Australian schools in 2013.

This represents 13.1 per cent of all students — significantly more than the 8.5 per cent identified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. About six in 10 of the stud­ents had cognitive disabilities, including learning disorders, and nearly a quarter had social or emotional problems.

The data shows that 14 per cent of students have a physical disability and 4.2 per cent have a sensory problem, such as deafness or blindness.

But only one in three students identified as disabled was given any extra help at school.

Senator Lines yesterday described the allegations raised in the Senate inquiry as “shocking’’.

“A child with a disability or behavioural problems is entitled to a fair go, in the same way as other children, but they’re not getting that at the moment,’’ she told The Australian.

National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell, a former teacher, decried the “cruelty’’ of segregating or restraining stud­ents with behavioural problems: “It’s cruel in itself and also in the message it sends to the child about their value, and it will only exacerbate problem behaviours.’’


Editors notes:

  1. Stories like this show that the ACT Minister's claims that her Directorate's boy-in-the-cage debacle (see was "an isolated incident" are just untrue.
  2. We cannot believe any politician's claims that "A child with a disability or behavioural problems is entitled to a fair go" ... it just isn't true. The High Court decided in Purvis vs NSW that any (and every) school can exclude a child that might have behavioural problems ... under Australian law, the child is not entitled to education.