School uses "Guantanamo Bay" isolation cells to punish children

Since British schools abolished caning (when an unruly pupil was given excruciating whacks across their bear buttocks with a large cane) in the 1980s, many of us have been complaining that modern punishments in schools are not tough enough, or even non-existent, and therefore children are not learning right from wrong and respect for authority.

But one school in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, has come up with a unique way of punishing naught kids: Guantanamo Bay-style isolation cells where children are ordered to sit for extended periods under a spotlight facing a black wall in one of four partitioned areas of a classroom

Parent fury as school uses 'Guantanamo Bay' isolation cells to punish unruly pupils

By Daily Mail Reporter
13th October 2008
Daily Mail

A secondary school has been compared to Guantanamo Bay for sending unruly pupils to isolated punishment cells.

Children are ordered to sit for extended periods under a spotlight facing a black wall in one of four partitioned areas of a classroom to reflect on their misbehaviour.

Teachers at Ridgewood School in Doncaster – who call the cells individual study rooms – also send parents letters informing them of the length of service.

Unusual punishment: Children are put in spotlit cells to reflect on their actions and to avoid socialising with other pupils, like these playing youngsters above

But children call it the ‘dungeon’ and a father whose son was ordered to spend a day in one of the units has threatened to remove him from the school in protest.

Andrew Widdowson discovered the unusual punishment after Kieran, 11, helped deflate the tyres on a boy’s bike, he claimed.

Mr Widdowson, 30, told the Daily Mirror: ‘A teacher rang and told me about the punishment and I went into the school to see for myself what this isolation room was.

‘I couldn’t believe it. It was like something out of Guantanamo Bay.

‘The room is painted totally black. The walls, the partitions, the window blinds – everything was black.

‘The partitions down one side created four cells where school kids are expected to sit at a desk all day.’

‘My son has never been in trouble. The first time he’s done something and he gets told to go into isolation. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

‘I would rather take my son out of school than see him spend time in that dungeon.’

Now teachers have refused to let Kieran return to class until he serves his time in the room.

Mr Widdowson had earlier received a letter from the school explaining: ‘All the boys involved would serve one day in the isolation room on separate days… so they can reflect individually on their actions and hopefully decide that they will not be part of doing anything like this again whatever their motivation and degree of involvement in this case.’

The school has defended the room, which is supervised by a member of staff.

In a statement it said: ‘It is well lit with a window providing adequate external light and extra ventilation as required, and each individual carrel has separate spot lighting in addition.

'Dungeon': A father compared the isolation cells to Guantanamo Bay, above

‘The facility has been in use for over four years and accommodates a handful of pupils each week overwhelmingly for no more than one day and some for less than this.

'The facility is used at a relatively minor level of the behaviour policy to give pupils a chance to reflect on their behaviour and strengthen their desire to meet expectations in future.

‘It overwhelmingly achieves this in terms of pupils not returning for repeated isolations.

‘Pupils are supplied with work from current lessons and are free to ask questions of the supervising member of staff as they would in lessons.

‘It was fully functional during the 2006 Ofsted inspection and approved as a positive feature of the school’s overall success.

‘The school shares the aim of getting Kieran back into education at Ridgewood promptly.

'He is welcome to return at any time, do his day in isolation in line with the behaviour policy for all pupils and return to his full mainstream timetable.
It doesn't sound that bad. Do I agree with this particular form of punishment? I'm not sure.

But it certainly doesn't waste the pupil's time; he's given his assignments and can ask questions from the teacher present. Nothing mentions insulting or degrading the pupil in any way, and it appears that they're just left free to do their homework and study. What's so evil about that?

If the father has an issue with that, then recommend an alternative punishment.

I will criticize the school on one point however; lack of consultation with the parents. Obviously this took that father by surprise, which proves that the school doesn't have effective regular meetings with parents to have them all work together and agree on common policies. School policies will be most effective if teachers and parents work togetehr. If the kid sees conflict between them, he'll use that to his advantage, and that simply undermines any policy, no matter how good or bad.

So really my only recommendation would be for the school to start regular open consultative meetings between the school and parents. That's it.
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