Police are carrying out an investigation into alleged abuse at Kingspark School in Dundee, which parents say the authorities attempted to cover up.
One mother will today appear before the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee after nearly 5,000 people put their name to calls for changes to the way restraint is used in special schools.
Beth Morrison said her son Calum, now 11, who has learning difficulties, returned from school with bruising to his arms and blood spots on his chest consistent with haemorrhaging caused by being restrained.
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 about the school by a parent.
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 “cruel, humiliating and painful” restraint 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.
Ms Morrison is expected to tell MSPs on the committee that the use of restraint and exclusion in schools is a form of “child abuse”.
“The use of restraint and seclusion in Scottish schools caring for disabled children is poorly understood and inconsistent, leading to many of our children suffering what we believe is, at best, institutional child abuse, and, at worst, criminal assault,” she will say.
“We are also hearing of children being manhandled and dragged into ‘safe spaces’ without proper supervision or recording. We believe this is a deprivation of their liberty and their human rights.
“We also believe that in many cases disabled children are being subjected to restraint or seclusion as a punitive measure.
“Corporal punishment was banned in Scottish schools more than 30 years ago but, in our opinion, failures in guidance and scrutiny have allowed some schools to effectively re-introduce it illicitly for disabled children.”
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”.
A police spokeswoman said: “Police Scotland initiated an investigation into injuries sustained by a pupil at Kingspark School in 2010 following a recommendation from the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner earlier this year. In addition, we have reviewed the police response to a number of concerns raised during 2013 and will undertake some further enquiry as a result of our review.”
Dundee City Council said: “The council is co-operating fully with an ongoing police investigation and will be making no further comment until that has been completed.”
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