PHOTO: ACT Education Directorate head Diane Joseph and Education Minister Joy Burch release the long-awaited boy in the cage report. (ABC News: Jordan Hayne)
The principal of a Canberra school where a boy with autism was placed in a cage will not be allowed to return to any ACT Government school, in the wake of a report into the decision.
The school, in the city’s south, made international headlines in April when it was revealed a boy with special needs was placed in a withdrawal space made from pool fencing.
Cage cost $5,195; stood for 14 school days; used on one occasion
Principal made sole decision to erect cage: report
Principal disciplined, will not return to any public school
No similar structures found at other ACT public schools
The two-metre by two-metre area in a classroom was removed in March after a complaint to the Children and Young People’s Commissioner.
At the time, Education Minister Joy Burch told the media she was horrified by the situation and ordered an independent investigation into the decision.
The report released today has found the structure cost $5,195 of school funds to build and it was used on only one occasion.
It also states the decision to establish the pool fencing was authorised by the principal alone.
“Through all of this, my key concern has been the welfare of the child and the family involved and I am very disappointed by the things found through this investigation,” Ms Burch said.
“It is completely unacceptable that a decision was taken to build this type of structure to respond to the behaviour of a student.
“This decision was wrong, and the officer responsible will no longer be a school principal or be working within a school. School principals must be held responsible for their actions.
“Parents need to know they can trust the judgment of those staff that care for their children.”
Principal will not be allowed to return to any public school
Education and Training Directorate director-general Diane Joseph said the principal is no longer at the school and will not be returning to campus.
“The decision to erect the inappropriate structure was that of one individual,” she said.
“The decision was totally unacceptable and the officer is no longer a school principal and is not returning to a school.
“Recruitment has already begun for a new principal.”
The principal will continue working for the Education and Training Directorate, but not in a school.
Parents have previously complained they were kept in the dark about the investigation into the cage and when it was going to be finalised.
Ms Burch said 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,” Ms Burch said.
“I thank the school community for their patience while this matter was investigated.”
Opposition education spokesman Steve Doszpot also criticised the time it took to investigate the incident.
“What do we know by the statements that the minister has given us that we didn’t know five-and-a-half months ago?” he said.
“We were told then that the principal had been stood down from her position to administrative duties, now we’re told that she’s been terminated in her position as a principal.
“Essentially there is nothing new that’s come our of this five-and-a-half month investigative period.”
Mr Doszpot said the Opposition would be seeking further information on the incident.
“Who else was aware of the construction? The cage was up for a number of days so other people would have come in contact with it,” he said.
A separate audit of withdrawal spaces for troubled students in ACT Government schools found no evidence of similar structures at other school campuses.
The Expert Panel into Students with Complex Needs and Challenging Behaviours will report to the minister in October 2015.
Two new positions will be created inside the Education Directorate to prevent a repeat of the boy in the cage situation.
These are a new Director of Regulation and Compliance and Director for Families and Students