Do Time-Outs Violate Human Rights?

Putting a student in a time-out corner, or “the naughty corner,” may be human rights abuse, say Australian academics.

Dr. Anna Sullivan and Professor Bruce Johnson, both of the School of Education at the University of South Australia (UniSA), say that seclusion and exclusion could breach a child’s fundamental right to an education. Additionally, “They say practices such as shouting at students and sending them to ‘time outs’ in classroom corners could breach the international Convention on the Rights of the Child, under which school discipline must protect children’s ‘human dignity,’” reports

The human rights question is designed to be provocative—to grab attention in order to inspire change when it comes to behavior management. In fact, control and punishment, says Johnson, are less valuable classroom management tools when schools and staff:
  • Build relationships with kids
  • Talk to them a lot
  • Don’t escalate situations
  • Negotiate, offering kids choices 

Time-outs and other exclusionary discipline methods like suspensions can cause kids to fall behind, the academics say. “The more they get behind, the more they get disconnected from their classmates and the problem just exacerbates,” Sullivan told

Sullivan and Johnson are presenting their concerns to the Behaviour in Australian Schools summit this week.

The topic of time-outs and seclusion is sensitive and complex. In some circumstances, teachers may find it helpful to allow a student to choose to take some time as a coping mechanism and to consider a task in order to make positive choices. At the same time, the student's Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ must be the top priority. To understand CPI's position on this complex issue, download Seclusion: Applying Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Concepts [PDF].

What do you think about time-outs in schools?

You might also be interested in