Education Victoria and "martial arts therapy" for "special students"

Education Authorities in Victoria persist with inappropriate methods for children with special needs. Previous reports are here and here. Disability advocates may have delayed the latest expansion accordingf to the story below, but for how long?

Agency pulls ad for school aides with martial arts training

August 13, 2014

, State Political Reporter at The Age

A recruitment agency has pulled an ad for integration aides with “martial arts therapy” training after disability advocates raised concerns about the use of violence and restraint in schools.

The online ad was placed last week by recruitment companyanzuk, which said it was looking for “martial arts therapy aides” to work in special needs and primary schools in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.

Children with Disability Australia executive officer Stephanie Gotlib said the ad reflected a system in crisis, where physical restraint was increasingly being used on disabled children to control their behaviour.

“If this was happening in a local primary school, with disability taken out of the equation, and a whole lot of martial arts therapy aides were employed, there would be community uproar.”

Disability advocate Julie Phillips said integration aides usually did not require any qualifications and it was disturbing that schools were demanding they had martial arts therapy skills.It comes as more than 11,300 people have signed a petition calling for the Napthine government to end the use of restraint - which includes physical restraint such as force and mechanical restraint such as straps - against disabled children in school.

She said martial arts therapy training encouraged the use of restraint on children.

“The use of martial arts or violence against students with disabilities is a long-standing problem. The Department of Education seems to prefer the use of physical violence to address challenging behaviours rather than psychological interventions, despite the evidence of the success of such interventions.”

Croydon Community School has provided “martial arts therapy” training for the last 14 years for hundreds of Victorian aides who work with children with extreme behaviours.

Principal Bronwyn Harcourt said learning how to restrain children was only “a very small part of the program”.

She said the school was in the process of renaming the program because of the negative connotations associated with martial arts.

“Martial arts does not equal restraint. The program does not encourage restraint, it does exactly the opposite, it encourages building a relationship with the kid, it teaches them about their triggers and how to self regulate, and how to de-escalate situations.”

She said restraint was necessary in extreme situations where a child was putting themselves and others at risk.

“If you have a kid carrying a bat and hitting a teacher or kicking a teacher or another kid then they have to be stopped."

Shadow parliamentary secretary for education Colin Brooks said the Napthine government had ignored Office of the Public Advocate and Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission recommendations for independent oversight of the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

“The recruitment of staff skilled in martial arts to work with children with disabilities highlights how badly this oversight is required. The Napthine government should be ashamed it is allowing this to occur to some of our most vulnerable children."

An Education Department spokesman said restraint was only ever used as a last resort when someone was in danger - “for instance, if a student is about to harm another student or a staff member by throwing a chair, a teacher may intervene and restrain the student to prevent them from causing injury.”

anzuk did not want to comment.