John McCollow discusses recent reporting of the use by a Queensland school of a time-out room – described in one television program as a “jail cell … [where children] are locked away like animals” – which has drawn attention once again to the fact that debates about the education of students with disabilities persist and are typically highly charged (and can provide ample fodder for sensationalised reporting). This is particularly the case for those students who exhibit extremely challenging and disruptive behaviours.
Earlier in the year the use of a two-by-two metre cage made of blue pool fencing as a withdrawal space in a Canberra school led to the establishment by the ACT Government of an independent ‘expert’ review into the schooling of "students with complex needs and challenging behaviours". The review panel produced a 278 page report in mid-November. The issues surrounding the approaches and practices of teachers and schools are complex and deserve a more measured analysis than that afforded by the mass media.
John McCollow considers these issues.