A special needs student deliberately locked out of class at a Lower Hutt school is just one allegation among many revealed in documents obtained by Stuff.
Others stemming from Naenae College’s special needs unit, include claims of nappies being left unchanged for a day, a student escaping onto rail lines, and staff members making racist comments in front of students.
But principal Nic Richards said the school managed to maintain student dignity and the unit provided a “high level of education and care” for its 40 students.
Documents obtained by Stuff under the Official Information Act detailed several incidents between June 2017 and February, 2018 at the unit.
The documents reported teacher aides treating disabled students “as if they are babies”, and in one instance failing to change a student’s nappy all day.
A senior unit staffer sent an email to Richards, then-deputy principal, claiming the unit had “poor and lazy” work practices and saying staff said “derogatory things about pupils while they can hear”.
One email said a screaming student was put outside, alone, until he stopped as it was “the only way” staff could manage the behaviour.
In November, an aide was the subject of an investigation after allegations she made “denigrating” and “racist” remarks in front of students on a school trip.
Another allegation said a student fell to the ground when an aide pulled him out of a taxi.
One female staffer allegedly poked a 17-year-old male student in the stomach while calling him a “naughty rascal”, it was claimed.
In February, Richards was told of a student from the unit escaping – once onto busy High St, and on another occasion onto a nearby railway line.
Richards said circumstances arose from time-to-time which required board of trustees and Ministry of Education support.
“These range from staff education to improving delivery of programmes and the development of best practice, to the resolving of incidents and accidents that occur.”
The school took all incidents seriously and sought to maintain student dignity, treatment and care at the highest level, he said.
“The exchanges referred to … all fit within this scope and have been addressed using appropriate procedures.”
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The school engaged with the ministry to improve fencing and create a more secure outside area for the unit after the student was able to leave school grounds without supervision, he said.
“The wellbeing of all our students is paramount. We are confident that the work being done to support our special needs unit staff to operate effectively in the best interests of our students and their whānau is progressing positively.”
Katrina Casey, from the Ministry of Education, confirmed it was informed of a student being locked outside and a student escaping.
“When we were told about the student being placed outside until he stopped screaming, we did not sanction the use of this strategy for managing the student’s behaviour.”
The ministry worked with staff on “better time out strategies”, and on fencing modifications.
University of Auckland professor Missy Morton, whose research specialises in disability studies, said schools with special needs units had to work to make the rest of the school recognise those pupils as part of the community.
It was good the incidents at Naenae College were reported, she said.