Australian school allegedly kept autistic child in 'cage-like' structure

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian principal was suspended on Thursday after a primary school child with special needs was allegedly put in a "cage-like" structure inside a classroom.

Australian Capital Territory Education Minister Joy Burch said she was "immensely disappointed, disturbed and quite frankly disgusted" that the 2m "withdrawal space", made of metal fencing, was allowed in school. It was reportedly built for a 10-year-old autistic student, who was placed in it between March 10 and March 27. Media reports referred to it as "cage-like".

An independent inquiry has been launched and two extra teachers qualified in disability education assigned to the school.

"Whether it was in the school for 17 days, 17 minutes or 17 seconds, it had no place there," Ms Burch told reporters in the ACT and national capital Canberra. "Words can't put into place the absolute disappointment and horror I have that, in our schools, that anyone would consider a structure of this nature in any way, shape or form acceptable."

The Canberra school was not named, but the child's concerned family contacted the Human Rights Commission.

The ACT Education Directorate said it was an isolated example of very poor decision-making.

"A withdrawal space was erected inside a classroom for a student with behavioural challenges and special needs. The space was a fenced-in structure inside a classroom," it said in a statement.

"It was entirely inappropriate and unacceptable.

"This is an isolated example of very poor decision making and of the upmost seriousness," it added.