Call to ban ‘cruel’ pupil restraint at Scots schools

PARENTS are calling for an overhaul of the use of restraint in special schools amid a police investigation into the alleged abuse of children with learning difficulties.
A review of Kingspark School, Dundee, was carried out last yearA review of Kingspark School, Dundee, was carried out last year
A review of Kingspark School, Dundee, was carried out last year

More than 2,000 people have signed a Scottish Parliament petition calling for changes to the way special needs children are managed.

It comes as police carry out an investigation into alleged physical and sexual abuse at Kingspark School in Dundee, which parents say the authorities attempted to cover up.

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Police are looking into a series of allegations dating from 2010 after the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) last year ruled that officers had failed to investigate properly when concerns were first raised by a parent about the treatment of her 12-year-old son.

The boy, who has learning difficulties, returned home from school with bruising to his arms and blood spots on his chest consistent with haemorrhaging caused by being restrained.

The allegations have led to calls for national guidance to be introduced on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Petitioners want the Scottish Government to ban the use of restraint deemed “cruel, humiliating and painful” and want the practice to be used only as a “last resort”.

They also want regular training for staff in how to avoid the use of restraint and for teachers and support workers to be made accountable by recording every incident which leads to a child being restrained.

In a separate development, a number of families with children who attended Kingspark have instructed a solicitor to act on their behalf.

One mother said: “I have fought for four years to get justice for my son. This isn’t about compensation, it isn’t about money – it’s about what’s right.

“Parents weren’t being interviewed [about what was happening at the school] by the police, none of the kids were being interviewed. It was just a complete mess. The last thing the school and the city council wanted was an abuse scandal. They did everything to keep a lid on it. They managed the parents into silence – it looks like a cover-up.”

A police spokeswoman said: “Police Scotland initiated an investigation into the circumstances surrounding injuries sustained by a pupil at Kings-park School in 2010 following a recommendation from the PIRC earlier this year.

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“In addition, we have reviewed the police response to a number of concerns raised during 2013 and will undertake some further inquiry as a result of our review.”

A Dundee City Council spokesman said: “The council is co-operating fully with an ongoing police investigation and will be making no further comment until that has been completed.”

Last year a review of concerns about Kingspark carried out by Alastair Marquis, an independent education consultant, called on the school to review how it manages pupils with “challenging behaviour”.

The report said greater emphasis should be put on promoting positive behaviour, with restraining techniques only to be used as a “very last resort”.