Balancing the rights of all children?

Whilst no reasonable person would advocate limiting the educational/development opportunities of any child, including those identified as having “special needs” or “behavioural issues”, surely it is time to review the insistence of educational academics and the expectations of parents that such children can and should be fully integrated into mainstream educational facilities (‘Child reportedly contained in cage-like structure at ACT primary school’, Canberra Times, April 3rd)?

In response to the public furore generated by the report that a “cage-like structure” had been used to contain a child, the Canberra Times reported one unnamed parent as being “disgusted” and claiming that “I don’t think anyone should be locked in a cage. They are not criminals, they are just children that need help, not to be locked away“, whilst another concerned citizen apparently rushed-off and referred the matter to the ACT Human Rights Commission.

It is obviously important to ensure that no child is being subjected to abuse in any situation, but it is also reasonable to highlight the difficulties sometimes involved in dealing with such children in the classroom and the negative impact that their behaviour can have on the education of other children. As a primary school teacher, my wife is routinely confronted by students exhibiting “behavioural issues”. Sadly, there are no effective “strategies” for dealing with a child who is determined to assault other children, whether by biting or kicking. There are no effective “strategies” for preventing a child with “behavioural issues” from disrupting the education of their fellow students.

So why are the “special needs” of a minority of children allowed to dictate the standard of education available to all students? It is time real consideration was given to the needs of all students and it is also time that some consideration was shown to the challenges faced by teachers who are unreasonably expected to cater to the needs of children with “special needs” or “behavioural issues“, often at the expense of other students.

 – name withheld by request, so as to not identify teacher wife

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