Department sued over restraint
Education Queensland is being sued by the family of a boy with ADHD, after his school restrained him for ‘aggressive’ acts.
The parents of the boy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been embroiled in a two-year legal battle with Education Queensland over his alleged treatment at a school in Hervey Bay between 2011 and 2015.
The family is suing for disability discrimination after the child was held in a “withdrawal room” to calm him, including physically restrained him multiple times.
Documents filed in the Federal Court allege the boy was subjected to physical violence, restraint and seclusion because of his disabilities.
The department denies engaging in unlawful discrimination, arguing instead that there was an “ongoing risk” to staff and students' health and safety.
The department describes the behaviour as “highly disruptive” and “aggressive”.
Education Queensland also claims the boy’s conditions do not fit under the meaning of disability in the legislation, and denies that his behaviours were a symptom of them.
The boy’s statement of claim says he has ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder, which cause him to bite, pinch, kick, and refuse to follow directions.
School behaviour records say the boy tried to kick, hit, bite and scratch staff while being “carried” to a “withdrawal room”.
Staff allegedly told him to sit on a mat before he could return to class, but were forced to restrain him when he “climbed the door ... climbed onto the louvres”.
“This continued for approximately 40 minutes with him being restrained for 5-10 minutes before being let go and then he would start behaviours that put him at risk and we would restrain again,” the report noted.
It is also alleged that the boy tried to stab one staff member in the leg with part of a door stopper.
“He was restrained for a short time ... and let go as he did not struggle,” the statement said.
“At one time he did a small vomit and said his chest hurt, so we cleaned up the small amount of vomit ... and left him but he shortly got up and climbed the window again.
“We left the room, he climbed, putting himself at risk, and we would go in, restrain, and he would not fight. We would leave.
“In total, [he] needed to be intermittently restrained for approximately two hours.
“Whenever we thought he was calm enough to let go, he would start to hit or kick out at staff.”
Lawyers for the boy said his treatment left him “feeling unwanted and affected his self-esteem, was punitive, put him at risk of injury and death, and caused him psychological harm”.
“By treating [him] in [that] manner ... [the school] treated him less favourably than it would treat a student without [his] disabilities,” their statement of claim says.
The school is further accused of failing to provide a functional behaviour assessment or plan by a qualified analyst or psychologist.
The department’s lawyers claim; “The [school's] actions were reasonable measures ... taken to protect the health and safety of [the boy], other students [and/or] employees”.
They also say his parents “consented to and encouraged” the use of the withdrawal room.
The family is seeking a declaration from the Federal Court that the department committed unlawful discrimination against their child, as well as damages.