Parents pull kids from school


A SPECIAL school in Casey has defended their methods of dealing with students who display challenging behaviours.
Several parents have pulled their students from Marnebek School in Cranbourne due to complaints about the school’s discipline policies and the “prison-like” outside settings.
One of the parents has taken her complaints to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) on the grounds of discrimination, and use of seclusion and restraints.
But Principal Karen Dauncey said the school was very caring, the teachers at the school were extremely dedicated to their work and the students at the school were at the centre of everything they did. She also denied accusations from the parents that the outside area was “caged-in” and said the courtyard was a fantastic sensory garden for students.
The parent taking her concerns to VCAT is Narre Warren woman Rachael Woolley, mother of twins Jake and Cooper who both suffer from severe non-verbal autism.
Ms Woolley transferred her sons to another school. She said Jake was isolated in a fenced-in outside courtyard, physically restrained during school assemblies and led down halls with wrist straps.
She said Jake was not violent or aggressive but his behaviour could be challenging and thought there were more appropriate ways of dealing with his behaviour than to seclude him in a ‘prison-like’ cage.
Rebecca Cobb, mother of 10-year-old Tristan who has autism, pulled her son from the school a year ago after complaints the staff were unable to handle him.
Ms Cobb, from Cranbourne, said Tristan was also being secluded but instead of being sent outside, he was isolated in a room.
She said she thought there needed to be more experienced staff at the school and they needed to implement a better policy.
Ms Cobb said she made numerous suggestions to teachers about how to deal with her son, but many of them weren’t taken on board.
Chris Scandolera said he decided to send his twin boys Harley and Matthew to a new school last year after numerous issues with the school. The twins have autism, developmental delay and behavioural issues.
He said there was a lack of communication between him and the teachers, and they did not listen to any of his suggestions to help them deal with any problems concerns Harley and Matthew’s behaviour.
Mr Scandolera said he was also aware of the boys being isolated in a room or sent outside for time-outs. He said since switching schools, the boys’ development and behaviour had improved significantly.
Julie Phillips, a disability advocate who works mainly in the area of disability and education, said seclusion was a publishment used by many schools in response to behavioural issues, instead of using positive behaviour intervention.
“This is practiced psychology,” Ms Phillips said.
“It involves getting a psychologist to do a behavioural assessment to find out why they are behaving the way they are and what it is about their environment that is distressing them.”
Ms Dauncey said she was unable to comment on any individual child but wanted to reassure the public that the school was very caring and teachers who chose to work in a special school setting were extremely committed to the students and their work.
“While I am not able to comment on any individual child, we don’t and would never have caged areas at our school,” Ms Dauncey said.
“What we have are small outside areas attached to the junior classrooms for quiet time, lunch play or small learning groups. This area is accessed and overlooked by glass windows and a glass door – a bit like a family room in a home would be divided by glass to the outside patio. Some children spend a few minutes in this area watched by the teacher all the time and for longer periods during learning activities, a teacher may decide a child would benefit from quiet time in our fantastic sensory garden.”


  1. Not all children in special schools have Autism, they have a multitude of disabilities and a multitude of needs. I wish newspapers print the big picture story and not just the reactionary stories. What Marnabek needs is more funding and better facilities. You want a real story, dig deeper, much deeper, because all children with disabilities do not get equal opportunities when it comes to education. I am sure teachers would love more support from support workers such as phycologist, occupational therapist, speech therapist and physiotherapist. The problem is demand is greater than supply. So once again how about the government provides better funding so special schools can provide for all children’s needs.

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  2. Why is it so hard for some schools to get it right. This school needs to listen to the parents and learn to work with each child individually. Parents of children with special needs should not have to worry about their children whilst in the care of trained ‘professionals’. Disgraceful Marnebek!!

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  3. I think the key element is that school personnel did not work with the families to solve behavior issues early on. Parents often have helpful suggestions about their own special needs children.

    If a parent shut an autistic child outside alone, it would be considered abuse. How is it part of education?

    And I’m sorry to say, the photo does not evoke the phrase “sensory garden”!

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  4. Don’t forget, many children with disabilities come from parents themselves who have disabilities.Maybe that is why they are still complaining when their kids have left the school.
    Assume the photo was outside the school – most schools have fences.

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  5. There is a second photo of a play yard.

    Shutting a child outside alone in a play yard is not generally considered good educational policy.

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  6. A play yard though is I assume not supposed to be the sensory garden. Many special schools have them and they are lovely.

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  7. There must be a lot of heartbreak and guilt involved with having a special needs child, double that with twins so you can understand parents getting upset. Like with most things though it is always easier to blame a school.

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  8. I guess there are always two sides to a story. I wonder what the truth is

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  9. Exactly Kyle.
    Shame that schools are subject to privacy rules and that when parents
    like Rachael Woolley (who if you Google her seems to love her 15 minutes of fame)go running to the media, the schools can not defend themselves by breaking confidentiality and notifying readers of any other elements that may come into play such as true diagnosis, lack of parental skills, medication issues, trauma caused by the family, poverty etc.

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