Massive response to petition calling for guidance on the restraint of disabled children in schools
A national campaign calling for guidance on the use of restraints on children in special needs schools has received an overwhelming response.
Over 2,100 people have signed the Scottish Parliament petition lodged by parent Beth Morrison and supported by a host of disability charities.
It comes after growing concern by parents that a lack of guidance was leaving children with additional and complex needs at risk of being ill-treated in local authority day schools.
The issue came to the fore after a number of incidents at Kingspark School in Dundee.
Morrison's son was just 11-years-old when he was left with bruises after two alleged incidents in which he was "restrained" by Kingspark staff in 2010.
On one occasion, four staff are said to have held him on the floor.
Morrison says that according to doctors the injuries could potentially have been life-threatening.
The mother, from Angus, said: "If there isn't a change in the law, we will have a child death in Scotland."
At least 11 families are seeking legal advice from a Dundee-based lawyer over allegations relating to the school.
Other allegations include a girl who was left with 80 bruises and a boy who was left outdoors as a punishment.
A probe by Dundee child care and protection committee in 2013 was criticised as no parents were interviewed and it did not include medical reports or photographs of injured children.
It concluded that it the allegations had not been proved but produced 12 recommendations for improvement.
But parents claim their complaints weren’t properly looked into.
Now they want to see changes made in schools at a national level.
Guidance exists for looked after children in the care of local authorities but campaigners are demanding a policy providing protection for children who attend local authority education or care facilities on a daily basis.
As well as calling for national guidelines on restraint, the campaign aims to set a limit on the time kids are put into solitary seclusion.
Ian Hood, co-ordinator of the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, said: “National guidance exists for the use of restraint on looked after children in Scotland but nothing similar covers children with special needs in schools.
“This is a major oversight and means schools have no national standards on the appropriateness of restraint techniques, the use of de-escalation and the necessary levels of training.
“This means that is some circumstances, bad practice has arisen and parents have little recourse to challenge teaching and other support staff.
“Even more surprising is that there is no external supervision of the care regime in schools. It is left up the same local authorities who employ staff and run the schools to monitor them.
“This is a real concern and we hope this petition will be the start of a national dialogue to improve this picture.”
The petition closes on 17 February.