Today’s guest author is Chantelle D Hyde. With a background in Business and Education, Chantelle now advocates for Disability Supports and Human Rights. Always proud of her accomplished adult son, Eric, she is delighted daily, caring for her non-verbal autistic daughter Lily with her wonderful husband Sheldon.
Our NB Premier, Blaine Higgs called an election recently, and I couldn’t think of a better time to bring up this huge issue.
I emailed THIS to every candidate in every riding in New Brunswick, Canada that I could find an email address for, and a few other key people/organizations… Approximetly 160 email addresses. Heartfelt responses are already coming in… And hopefully change is on its way!
In an era where global protests continue as a result of the inhumane treatment that led to the death of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of Police, similar Restraints, and Seclusions that equate to solitary confinement, continue to happen to children in schools in New Brunswick. Restraint and Seclusion room practices against even our most vulnerable children, are supported by some Districts under the current Minister of Education, who has personally told me that he doesn’t have the power to put an end to this.
Here is our Global News story…
When we learned of this treatment of our daughter, I physically shook for three days straight. It is unimaginable that a child who functions at the developmental age of a 2 1/2 to 3 year old could ever be subjected to such a traumatic experience repeatedly, at the hands of the adults that we entrusted her care to everyday. Although I was told by Grand Falls Police that this is not currently against the law, it is a human rights violation. The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has accepted our complaint, and this will be moving forward. However the HRC process is a long one. How many children are at risk in the meantime? The number of parents who have chosen to homeschool their children long before this pandemic, simply to ensure their child’s safety everyday, is absolutely astounding. If you consider the number of special needs children who are in this situation, the numbers are even worse.
Immediately following our news story, Chuck Chiasson, our previous MLA, and strong advocate for our daughter’s needs since learning of her being in crisis, put out this call for an end to Restraint and Seclusions in New Brunswick schools.
I have no doubt in this school year, you will still find wording suggesting the use of Restraint and Seclusions, in many New Brunswick Behavior Support Plans, and often at the request of New Brunswick School Districts, without the informed parental consent that is required.
After our news story aired, I was contacted by several distraught parents and fellow students of New Brunswick children. The following quotes are from some of the messages that I received.
“I have a daughter with PDD-NOS and I was called to the school one day. I live in New Brunswick. I went and when I got there, I said “Where is my daughter? They said “She is in this room”, (a room) that looked like a jail cell, a 8×10 window, completely naked, not a stitch of clothes on.”-From Cindy near Juniper, NB
“I’ve seen it happen before. Shania, a girl I graduated with would be locked in rooms alone while she screamed and yelled. I don’t think it’s right at all.”From a Graduate, also of John Caldwell School in Grand Falls, NB (she wished not to be named as she still lives in this small town)
“Hello, I saw your call to action about locking special needs children in a “panic room.” I saw this happen to multiple children when I was attending Campobello Island Consolidated School and it never sat right with me. I’m glad to know that somebody is taking a stand.”-Nikki, Campobello Island
“The current Principal took a sledgehammer to the door of The Pink Room when he came in as principal”-Parent from Perth-Andover school 2019
Parents also from Bath, Moncton, Fredericton, and beyond messaged me with horrendous stories of what their children had endured at school. All of them had tried endlessly to get the help their children needed within the school system. Most of them are too exhausted to take action, and have simply given up.
I am sending this to all of you because you are parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. You are sensible, professional, caring people who are no doubt motivated into the political arena by your desire to help people of the community. Our deepest hopes and prayers are that the children of our New Brunswick communities will be your first and foremost priority after this. When you read this, we pray that we as parents won’t continue to feel so alone in fighting against this inhumane, very dangerous treatment of our children, and maybe even yours.
This problem does not begin on the day that an adult locks a child in a room or restrains them. This problem begins with the seriously lacking supports, training, and programs to address the needs that our children have. Significantly increased supports in the area of Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Speech Language Pathology, Behavior Intervention for related behaviours, and trauma-informed care training to begin with, are highly required for our children to regulate, and not be traumatized by adults who are often simply unprepared, and don’t know what else to do.
Autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, and any number of other things that can potentially cause a child’s behaviour, then at times, to be misconstrued as aggressive or negative by adults, puts these children at risk. Particularly in an educational system that allows Restraint and Seclusion practices to be used on children in the first place; Practices against which the entire world is protesting against police using on adults, even criminals. How many New Brunswick children are at risk for similar Restraints at the hands of some teachers and EAs, which can be deadly, and seclusions that equate to solitary confinement, in New Brunswick schools?
Our daughter has severe Autism and a severe intellectual disability. Our daughter is also largely non-verbal. This normally very happy, giggly little girl is as innocent as a three-year-old. If she is put in solitary confinement, there is only fear and trauma there. If she is restrained, she cannot even say the words, “I can’t breathe”.
Our daughter is safe for now, at our wonderful new school, but how many New Brunswick children will not be safe when school classes begin to return on Tuesday? Please help us keep our children safe.