A photo of a cage used to restrain a young boy with autism at a Canberra school has become public, against the ACT Education Minister’s wishes.
Constructed of blue metal pool fencing, the two-metre by two-metre cage clearly has a roof and a rear door – which was able to be latched shut.
The cage was built by an external contractor with $5195 of school funds.
It stood for 14 days at a school in Canberra’s south before it was ordered to be dismantled in March 2015 by the ACT Education and Training Directorate.
A report by the Directorate said the cage “was designed as a space for a student to calm down and when the student needed a quiet space”.
It also the said the school would not be named and the identity of the student would be protected, but it said he was placed in the cage on one occasion.
On Wednesday, ACT Education Minister Joy Burch called the cage “disgusting” and said a government investigation had found the school’s principal was solely responsible for approving its construction.
“The decision [to build the cage] was made without input, consultation or approval from within the school or the Directorate,” the report said.
The principal was stood down from her role and will not be able to teach in a government school again, however she will continue working for the Education and Training Directorate.
Ms Burch slammed Canberra media organisations for publishing the photo of the cage.
In a statement Ms Burch said she believed publishing the photo was heartbreaking for the boy’s family and emotionally damaging for other parties involved.
“I accept that the community rightly wanted answers as to how such a structure came to be,” she said.
“Information about this is now freely available to the public [via the directorate’s website].
“Publishing this photo does not assist in getting to the truth or add any more insight as to why it was constructed.”
Parents had previously complained they were kept in the dark about the investigation into the cage and when it was going to be finalised.
Ms Burch acknowledged that the time taken to complete the investigation had been extremely frustrating.
“The length of time this has taken did not meet community expectations or my expectations as Minister,” she said.