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Isolating Children In School ‘Damages Mental Health’

School boy (aged 14) against a brick wall

Putting children in isolation in school risks causing them unnecessary trauma, according to a report by a mental health charity.

The use of isolation as a disciplinary measure risks damaging children’s mental health and can end up making behavioral problems worse as students become more disaffected from school, according to the study.

Instead, the charity urges schools to become more aware of the impact of trauma on their students, and to switch from punitive to positive behavior strategies.

The report comes as a campaign to end the use of isolation booths—where children are confined to booths with no contact with other students or adults—as a behavior management tool gathers pace. The Ban the Booths campaign has garnered support from MPs and is holding its first national conference later this month.

The use of isolation rooms is widespread in U.K. schools, as a way of removing disruptive children from the classroom.

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But a report by the Centre for Mental Health today argues that the use of isolation is potentially damaging to children.

Children who have already had traumatic experiences are particularly vulnerable, according to the study, and may find such punishments “disporportionately distressing.”

While schools must record the use of exclusion, there are no such requirements over the use of isolation, with the result that there are no figures on how prevalent it is, although a BBC investigation in 2018 found that more than 200 children spent at least five straight days in isolation in the previous year.

And last year one mother revealed she is taking legal action after her daughter, who has autism spectrum disorder, attempted suicide after spending more than a month in isolation.

Tom Bennett, a former teacher and now the Government’s adviser on behavior in schools, defended the use of isolation in an interview with the BBC this morning, saying that students were typically removed for “extreme disruption, violence or rudeness to teachers,” rather than for trivial offences.

He said removing students from the classroom gave them an opportunity to calm down, without disrupting the learning of other children. The children who had been removed were supervised and given work to do, he added.

But one mother who spoke to the same program told how her son had been put in isolation from the age of 11 for relatively trivial offences, such as wearing a hoodie in the dining hall. Now 15, he has spent a third of his education in isolation, she added.

She said her son was not given work to do, and instead spent his time doodling.

The experience has transformed him from a outgoing child who enjoyed going to school, to one who has no confidence in authority and “sees adults as enemies,” she said.

Niamh Sweeney, a member of the executive of the National Education Union, told the BBC that children were often isolated for “small incidents,” such as having incorrect school uniform.

“Children describe sitting in isolation, having to look forward, not being able to have eye contact or contact with other people, and that does not deal with the cause or address, in any shape or form, the behaviour that the school is trying to change,” she said.

Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said attempting to improve behavior by isolating children will not work.

“For some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children they will entrench behavioural problems with lifelong consequences for them and their families,” she said.

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I’m a freelance journalist specializing in education. My career so far has taken in regional and national newspapers and magazines, including Forbes, The Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. A lot has changed since I started covering education as a wide-eyed junior reporter in the early 1990s, not least the role of technology in the classroom, but as long as perfection remains just out of reach there will be plenty to discuss. I’ve been hooked on news since setting up a school magazine at 15, but these days I stick to reporting and let someone else sell the adverts, set the crossword and staple the pages together.

 

Source: Isolating Children In School ‘Damages Mental Health’

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Bringing Men Out of Isolation with Empathy and Accountability – Justin Lioi

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The mass of men lead incredibly isolated lives these days. One seemingly no-brainer solution is for men to connect with other men wherever they can: MeetUp groups, local bars, softball teams, etc.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this idea, it’s not enough, and can actually end up doing more harm than good. Men need to be grounded in an analysis of patriarchy and oppression and unless this happens at the same time (or before) they come together in groups these new friendships and coalitions run the risk of reinforcing the same oppressive systems that are already in place.

The Invisibility of Patriarchy (at least, to the Patriarchy)

Men don’t talk about their feelings., so the stereotype goes. Well, they do talk about anger. They certainly complain. If they’re straight, they complain about their female partners. Saying they’re too needy. Always wanting them to do something they don’t want to do. Not having enough sex.

That’s fine. It’s fine for people to talk about what they want and what they are not getting. There’s no good reason to shut down anyone from expressing their wants and desires, their frustrations and irritations. The problem comes about when there’s no deeper exploration of all of these things. When you’re around your local bar or when you’re at softball practice it’s likely no one is analyzing relationships (I’d love to hear about exceptions, though!) Complaints are either being heard and left alone or they’re being fired up and intensified.

It’s an echo chamber and nothing gets shifted or worked on.

I often get asked if getting men together to talk is enough: “Forget therapy, forget groups, just get men together. Let them build relationships with each other and then things will go well. Society will move forward. We just all need to talk.”

The problem is that oppression and privilege is often invisible to the people who have it. If they are not continually brought back to examine it—if the fish is not constantly told they are swimming in water—they don’t realize it’s there and they think that society really is a meritocracy.

Empathy & Accountability Are Both Required

For groups of men coming together to be effective two things need to be present. They need to be able to do some of the above—express their anger, annoyance, irritation—even if those feelings could be heard by some as unacceptable (which is why we should do it in male spaces so we don’t continue to subject women to this). Only bad can come from repressing all of that. It’ll just come out in some other way: resentment or violence, to name a few. I’m not making excuses for it, but “holding it in” has never worked out well for anyone.

The second important part of this coming together is to not stay there. Men need to be open and less defensive when there is some pushback around the underlying premise of what’s being said. Not, “You shouldn’t say that. How dare you feel that way.” But more along the lines of, “Ok, I hear that, but let’s take a look at where your anger is directed. What might we all be missing here and what is the other person seeing that isn’t as apparent to you?”

Accept the feeling, but challenge the premise from where it arises. Buddies and groups of people without an analysis tend to stay in the anger/resentment without pushing forward. They practice their anger and annoyance without holding each other accountable.
And we all stay stuck.

There’s a stereotype in politics that the left is all about “bleeding hearts” and the right is only about “personal responsibility”. I’m not here to challenge political stereotypes, but I know that for growth—personal and communal growth—we need both. We need to empathize while also holding ourselves and others accountable. One or the other does nobody any good.

So, yes, men need to come together into groups. They need to come out of isolation and give up the myth of full independence, but they need to do so outside of the space that reinforces patriarchy and inside the space that moves us forward.

 

 

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