Disabled children need more protection from the physical and mental abuse they experience while attending NSW schools, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.
Allegations against teachers include the use of restraints, severe isolation and assaults. Academic David Roy, a father of a disabled child, claimed he had heard several stories from other parents of kids suffering abuse.
“Not a little tap on the shoulder, we’re talking about locking them up in cupboards, throwing them against walls, dragging them across floors, twisting their arms,” the Australian Associated Press quoted him as saying.
“I have evidence of children being locked into small cupboards, of them being isolated in rooms with no supervision, of them being tied to chairs, illegally restrained.”
Mr Roy also alleged that the NSW Department of Education often didn’t appropriately record serious incidents, with many schools allowed to investigate the incidents internally.
Deputy NSW Ombudsman Steve Kinmond confirmed to the inquiry that many schools still used restraints, and he criticised academic institutions for their lacklustre approach to notifying parents when these incidents occurred.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Kinmond said: “We would argue that seclusion is not an acceptable option. Namely a child’s freedom of movement cannot be restricted.”
A NSW Ombudsman report unveiled at the inquiry showed 78 teachers in the state faced criminal charges over child sex and violence allegations. Of these, nearly one-quarter involved disabled students.
Last month, the Telethon Kids Institute found that disabled children are three times more likely to be maltreated than their peers.
The Daily Telegraph reported last year that just 3 per cent of nearly 500 child protection complaints against teachers and other school employees over the last four years had resulted in disciplinary actions.
“Whenever you have a sector that is largely self-regulating you get results like this … It is so low that it should be immediately triggering an independent review by the NSW Ombudsman at a minimum,” said Greens MP David Shoebridge.
Under state legislation, children who experience sexual, physical and/or mental abuse while attending institutions such as schools may be entitled to compensation for their suffering.
In 2016, the NSW government made changes to the Limitations Act 1969, removing time limits on civil claims for victims of child abuse. This means that claimants who suffered abuse decades in the past can still pursue damages today.
Would you like to learn more? Please contact a member of our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.