The Chief Ombudsman will investigate the use of seclusion rooms in schools, following reports that locked "time out" rooms had been used to restrain children.

The Herald revealed on Saturday that at least 10 children had been placed in a dim, cupboard-sized room at Miramar Central School during the last year, including pupils with special needs.

Its use was discovered after a behavioural therapist arrived at the school to find her student, an 11-year-old autistic child, crying out "I'll be good I'll be good" from the locked room at lunchtime.

The boy's mother complained to the Ministry of Education, which completed an investigation into the room, finding its use was "outmoded" and records kept were inconsistent.


The Ministry of Education has since reported that it was aware the rooms were in use in other schools.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier announced an investigation today. He said the investigation will consider the actions of the schools concerned, the extent of the practice, and any related actions or omissions of Government agencies.

The Commissioner for Children had agreed to assist with the investigation.

Judge Boshier will be asking the Ministry of Education to issue an advisory to schools requiring that they discontinue any use of seclusion in schools pending the outcome of the investigation.

The door to the time-out room at Miramar Central School
The door to the time-out room at Miramar Central School

The use of the room at Miramar Central was largely unknown within the community. It was not included in behaviour plans or mentioned on the school's websites. Not every case was recorded in the log.

Earlier this week a group of parents met with the principal about their concerns, with some saying they wanted further consequences for school authorities, and to view the investigation report.

A copy of the report seen by the Herald was unable to be made public as it contained confidential information. A redacted version will be released later today.

The head of Autism New Zealand Dane Dougan said there should be an inquiry to find out if the use of such rooms was systemic.

The Ministry of Education said it was aware of other such rooms around the country, but did not have an exhaustive list, or a record of when they were used.


Miramar Central School says it will stop using the room.

"We have taken on board the shortcomings and especially the recommendations," principal John Taylor-Smith said.

"We have immediately stopped using the room and are working with the ministry to review and develop new practice."

Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson said welcomed the Ombudsman's investigation and would assist if needed.

Gibson said he also supports the Chief Ombudsman's call for the Ministry of Education to issue an advisory notice to schools to cease the use of seclusion rooms.

"It is important for this practice to cease immediately," he said tonight.

"This sort of thing may be occurring in other schools - it has to stop now. It is unacceptable.

"The Commission understands that the Ministry of Education has been looking into the use of seclusion rooms in a second school, as well as Miramar Central.

The Commission has requested copies of both reports from the Ministry.

Gibson said that in the interim, the Commission expects the Ministry to be doing everything possible to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children, and especially disabled children, at the schools concerned.

"This includes exploring the full range of interventions available under the Education Act, from requiring the Board to engage specialist help on this topic, to appointing a commissioner, if necessary, to ensure children's safety at these schools."