By Lisa Martin, From: AAP, March 11, 2010 6:01PM
- Autistic children kept in fenced area
- Treatment inhumane, says NSW Opposition
- Matter of safety, says Education Department
A SYDNEY primary school that pens children with autism in a fenced area at lunchtimes should be investigated for human rights violations, the New South Wales Opposition says.
Parents with children at Seven Hills West Public School are angry that pupils with special needs are placed inside a fenced enclosure that has one tree, a bench and a dirt floor.
But the NSW Department of Education has defended the enclosure, saying it is used for new students with disabilities if they require more intense supervision while they adjust to school.
The school has 52 students with special needs.
But Coalition disability spokesman Andrew Constance said the treatment of children with autism at the school was inhumane and called for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to investigate.
"To see the type of facility which autistic children are being penned in is outrageous," he said.
"I've seen cattle yards in better condition.
"You cannot treat children with autism in this way.
"I think it is in breach of every anti-discrimination act in the country."
The Department of Education said in a statement the enclosure was set up after parents raised safety issues.
"The school is located on a busy road. Without this area, the students may leave the school grounds and could potentially be injured," the department said.
"Some of these children have no sense of boundaries and do not respond to staff asking them to stop.
"Once the school is satisfied a student will listen to directions from staff members and is also aware of playground boundaries, the child can use the playground."
The department said any student in the school could use this area if they chose.
"The area is never locked and students are supervised by a school learning support officer at all times," it added.
"Students are actively engaged in play and can leave the area to use other school facilities like the library."
In 2008, a number of parents of the students with disabilities raised safety issues with the school about their children leaving the school grounds.
"This fenced off area was created as a result of these concerns," the department said.
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