WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 13 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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New law proposed to inhibit the use of physical restraint in Scottish schools

New law proposed to inhibit the use of physical restraint in Scottish schools

Pic: Patrick Maguire
Self Portrait: Patrick Maguire

A new law is being proposed in Scotland following a 12-year campaign led by a mother against the use of physical restraint in schools. Beth Morrison has been advocating for “Calum’s Law” for her son, Calum Morrison, who was restrained at his special educational needs school when he was 11 years old.

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson is starting a consultation on a new members’ bill in response to the campaign. The main goal for this proposal is for physical restraint guidelines in schools to be legally enforceable. The law would also ensure mandatory training for all teachers preparing them to safely de-escalate difficult situations and requiring them to report all incidents where physical restraint is used.

Calum Morrison, who has learning disabilities, autism and epilepsy, was restrained on the floor by four adults until he lost consciousness as a primary school child. His mother said Calum had been riding a disabled bike in the gym hall when he did not understand the teacher’s instructions to get off, which then escalated into the dangerous situation. Morrison said Calum is still traumatised more than a decade later by this treatment he received in primary school.

‘What are we doing restraining children on the floor for discipline, for punishment, to make them comply?’ she asked. ‘It is about control, it is not about care. That’s got to change.’

Morrison told the BBC that since the start of her campaign 12 years ago, more than 2,500 families had contacted her reporting cases in which their children were hurt due to the use of physical restraint in schools. She said hundreds of these cases were reported to her each year, with almost all the children involved being of primary school age with additional support needs.

Johnson’s proposed law also comes five years after a report by Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner that revealed thousands of restraint incidents involving schoolchildren. ‘We have now had over a number of years reports showing there is an alarming use of restraint and seclusion, sometimes literally putting them in cupboards,’ he said.

The Labour MSP said a change in the law was needed to make sure there was much more regulation around these practices. Physical interventions may sometimes be required but with extensive reporting and teacher training so parents know their kids are safe, he concluded.