Boy Was Caged For Burping, Records Show
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 10, 2004
PERTH, AUSTRALIA--Records obtained under Freedom of Information laws show that the Kenwick School's use of a cage for a 11-year-old boy with autism was drastically different from what the school had initially reported.
According to a story in Thursday's News Limited, the records show that Neil Moore was locked in the wire mesh enclosure more than 60 times in the six month period between February and September 2003.
In February of this year, when the use of the cage area became public, school officials called it a "quiet garden" and "withdrawal facility" for Neil to occasionally "let off steam and calm down in a way in which he could retain his dignity". The state's assistant director of student services defended the use of the "time out area" where children "with extremely challenging behavior can be withdrawn for short periods of time."
The actual teacher notes reveal that Neil was placed in the structure, which was the size of a small room surrounded by a 3.5 meter (11.5 foot) high cyclone fence, for up to 90 minutes at a time for pushing or hitting other students or using foul language.
But the notes show that he was locked in the cage 23 times, for up to 45 minutes at a stretch, for such minor behaviors as taking off his shoes, grunting, rocking, stamping his feet, "being edgy", "refusing to join in", "being off-task", and being non-compliant.
"I read that and I cried. I was horrified," said Neil's grandmother and guardian Sheila Simons. "They never treated him as if he had autism. They treated him as if he was a naughty child."
West Australian Education Minister Alan Carpenter declined to comment on the case.
The cage was constructed behind the school, a segregated facility serving children with intellectual disabilities, after a behavioral expert at Murdoch University advised a "timeout" area for Neil.
Teachers' notes showed that the boy sometimes urinated and defecated in the small grassy area which had no toilet facilities, and often injured himself trying to climb out.
The cage was dismantled in February, but school and state officials have refused to guarantee that similar enclosures will not be built in the future.