A SCHOOL has issued an apology after two students were repeatedly strapped into “special” chairs to stop them from moving.
Twins Samuel and Jacob Montague, who suffer from severe autism, had been attending Five Acres Wood special school in MaidstoneCredit: SWNS
The parents of Samuel and Jacob Montague have been offered more than £80,000 in compensation by Kent County Council (KCC) which runs the school, after admitting multiple failings following a legal case.
The twins, who are both severely autistic and non-verbal had started at the school in 2009 when they were aged four and it was intended they would attend until they were 19.
They are now aged 17.
Their parents Annie and Mark though removed them in 2013 after they realised staff were continually restraining the boys by strapping them into chairs despite a number of objections and protests.
The first public incident took place in 2010, when the boys were brought out at a school concert strapped into the “Hardrock” chairs.
The restraints on the chairs restrict movement through a number of straps that go around the legs, arms and shoulders.
When their parents protested to the school, they were told the use of the mechanical restraint chairs were the only way the boys could take part in such a concert and that the incident was a one-off.
However, the couple became concerned the twins were being routinely restrained while at the school.
In June 2011, a clinical psychologist visited the school and saw one of the boys strapped into the Hardrock chairs in the classroom.
The parents protested but the chairs were still used.
During a school sports day, attended by the boys’ mum and their carer, Jacob was strapped into the chair and visibly distressed.
Due to autism, the twins interpret the world through touch and movement and so using the chairs to restrain them undermined the human rights, Mr and Mrs Montague said.
They took Samuel and Jacob out of the school and home-schooled them and the boys have since flourished, Kent Online reports.
The couple brought a civil case under the Human Rights Act against KCC, saying the restraints had been used unlawfully because the school failed to consider less restrictive options and also failed to put a plan in place to reduce the use of the restraints.
The school admitted a number of failings around the use of the chairs and that they failed to even consider using less restrictive options.
It also failed to record, report or monitor the use of the chairs.
A spokesman for KCC said in a statement that the council “sincerely apologises for any harm, distress and/or pain and suffering that were caused to Samuel and Jacob and to their parents as a result of these failures”.
Following the settlement, Mr and Mrs Montague said: “We are so pleased that Samuel and Jacob’s cases have come to a successful conclusion, and that the local authority has finally admitted that it failed our sons.
“Children with special educational needs should be protected, not strapped into chairs. Mistreatment of children like Samuel and Jacob happens behind closed doors, and it is very difficult for parents to find the evidence to challenge it, or to bring a legal case.”
They have also called for a change in the law to make it clearer that these restraints should not be used against children like Samuel and Jacob.
Solicitor Catriona Rubens, who represented the Montague family, said: “Samuel and Jacob were active, sensory seeking children who, because of their autism, interpret the world through movement and touch.
“It is our view that, by strapping them into mechanical restraint chairs at school, the local authority breached their human rights and failed to deliver any therapeutic benefit to the twins.
“We welcome Kent County Council’s sincere apology and recognition that it failed Samuel and Jacob in this case.
“The success of Samuel and Jacob’s case is a testament to the many years their parents spent fighting to get answers from the local authority about the use of restraint against their sons.”
Severely autistic twins Samuel and Jacob Montague had been attending Five Acre Wood special school in Maidstone, KentCredit: Google Maps
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