UN asked to probe ‘school system in crisis’

UN asked to probe ‘school system in crisis’

The United Nations has been asked to investigate dozens of incidents involving assault against children with a disability in Australian schools.

The request was made by a group of disability organisations acting on behalf of 55 families, who sent the request to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The group includes Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA), United Voices for People with Disabilities, the Autistic Family Collective and disability advocate, Julie Phillips.

They cited “widespread and grave” violations of students’ human rights, adding they had no other choice but to seek international intervention as Australian authorities had failed to act.

More than a third of the recorded incidents were classed as torture.

Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) chief executive, Stephanie Gotlib, told Fairfax Media that disability organisations had raised these concerns “time and time again” but to no avail.

“It is a system in crisis,” she said, adding that she continues to receive more reports of restraint and seclusion.

The request outlined a series of figures, including that around 36% of students in the 55 families reported being physically assaulted by school staff. Some students with a disability were allegedly punched, pulled and kicked by staff.

“Many children who were assaulted required medical treatment for their injuries, some for lengthy periods of time,” the request said.

“Schools had various names for these structures including ‘calm rooms’, ‘time out spaces’ and ‘playgrounds’.

“In reality, parents reported that these spaces were storerooms, cupboards and unused buildings with windows blacked out and lights shut off.”