“Don’t Exclude Me” aired on BBC 2 October 7th 2021
Sent Oct 12th, 2021:
On Sunday, Oct. 7th, 2021, at 9pm prime-time, people across the UK tuned in to see the second installment of the BBC2 documentary, Don’t Exclude Me.
Within hours, social media was awash with people speaking out in horror at the use of restraint on a 6-year-old child named Oscar.
The first restraint was performed by Marie Gentle, OBE, a government behavioural expert, and the second was performed by deputy head teacher Tom Spence while Gentle observed and cheered the teacher on for his technique. Oscar shrieked in terror and begged to be let go. It was only minutes after the first restraint scene aired that people began to contact ICARS to notify us.
Those scenes are included below for the purpose of criticism and as such are used in accordance with fair dealing laws.
Content notice: the following videos are taken from BBC2’s Don’t Exclude Me and feature children under duress being placed in restraints. Many viewers will find these scenes disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
Our umbrage matched that of the SEND community, advocates, and educators across the UK, and we felt it necessary to register a complaint to the BBC in regards to the dangerous broadcasting we had witnessed.
We observed that many people reported they had lodged complaints. We decided it was important to release our complaints publicly in the hope that the BBC would hold itself accountable with an acknowledgement for the errors they had made, an apology, and a commitment to counter the impact of the dangerous practice they had aired. A true rendering of facts.
Our complaint alleged a breach of the child’s human rights in the form of a dangerous restraint performed by Gentles that was broadcast as a best practice in behavior management. The same dangerous restraint was emulated later in the program by staff from Milton Hall. This restraint, called the “T-wrap” according to Gentles, is potentially life-threatening and could lead to positional asphyxiation. We went on to cite children who had been killed from restraint use and how important it was for the BBC to make corrections to the programming. Our first phase of our complaint is listed below.
Please note the original complaint listed the second restraint at 59 minutes, which we later redacted with the BBC as being at the 42-minute mark of programming.
“This was completely inappropriate and disproportionate restraint aired on Prime-time TV. A clear abuse of the child’s human right yet lauded as best practice by the program makers.”
“Children have been killed in schools globally most recently Max Benson, Cornelius Frederick and Xavier Hernandez. All killed by fatal positional asphyxiation through restraints that restricted breathing at the hands of teaching staff.”
BBC Response from initial complaint.
The BBC responded back to our initial complaint on Oct 19th, 2021, as can be seen below. We were somewhat dismayed at the response as it was identical to the response which Magic Behaviour had released some days earlier in response to conversations and complaints regarding the restraint of young Oscar. They clearly were not taking our complaint seriously. Therefore we responded back with our phase 1b complaint.
Marie Gentle Magic Behaviour twitter post
Post by Marie Gentles and Magic Behaviour Ltd on Oct 15th, 2021:
Phase 1B complaint to BBC Complaints unit
In our response, we felt maybe the BBC had not understood our initial complaint. We had cited our concerns for the safety of children across the UK and the risk of death from restraints like those broadcast, had researched their broadcast codes, and had shown them that Team Teach— whose program was being used— reviewed our complaint and agreed that they did not believe the restraint should have been used. We felt that we needed to present to the BBC the governmental guidance which had been violated in the broadcast and additional information in the hope they would take our, educators, advocates, and the SEND community at large concerns and horror more seriously and investigate further.
“This restraint has been withdrawn from the team teach syllabus, the medical advisers have advised it is not to be used because of the risk of death associated with positional asphyxiation.”
“Yet still BBC you are presenting this hold as a safe hold, you have done nothing to put right this wrong and as a consequence children’s lives are, put bluntly at risk”
BBC Response to phase 1B complaint.
Response received from BBC, Nov 25th, 2021:
Yet again, the BBC acknowledged the potential for harm, then defended themselves and doubled down on the use of restraint. They were kind enough to inform us that if we were dissatisfied we could contact the Executive Complaints Unit.
BBC Executive Complaints Unit: first letter
Sent to BBC, Nov 28th, 2021:
In light of the rather poor investigation by the BBC Complaints Department, we felt we would expand our concerns and to request who the BBC had actually consulted in regards to this complaint?
It would appear from the responses we have received to our complaints so far that the BBC have not approached any of these experts and therefore have not conducted a fully comprehensive investigation into their dangerous, life-threatening programming.
In effect Oscar went from being in danger of grazing his knees if he fell, to being at risk of suffering positional asphyxiation.
We suggest that the whole sequence is a Masterclass of human rights abuses and how not to use restraint, unless your aim is to engage in practices that could lead to death and go against medical expert and government guidance.
BBC Executive Complaints Unit: letter 2
Having received acknowledgment that the BBC were looking at our complaint, we wanted to inform the BBC that we ourselves had reached out to Dr. John Parkes (PhD, M.Med.Sci., BA[Hons], PGCTHE, RMN), one of the country’s leading experts on positional asphyxiation. Dr. Parkes graciously read our complaints, viewed the footage, and responded back to ICARS. We felt it was important that the BBC read his expert opinion on the restraint they had broadcast.
This child is in a seated position on the playground and at times the child’s chest is located towards his knees. Seated positions where the chest is pushed or held towards the person’s knees are demonstrated in formal research to reduce lung function. Seated restraint with chest pushed towards the knees has been associated with fatalities.Excerpt from Dr John Parkes’s email response to ICARS
BBC Executive Complaints Unit response
It has been established that no harm came to the children involved, resulting from Ms Gentles’ actions, and the parents of the child who was restrained were informed about the incident.
I consider that what is shown in the programme is consistent with the law and good practice concerning the restraint of children at school. Accordingly I can see no basis for removing the programme from iPlayer, as you have requested.Jeremy Hayes, Complaints Director, BBC
ICARS Public Statement on BBC Documentary “Don’t Exclude Me”
Please see our full statement addressing the BBC’s complaint process of the BBC2 documentary, Don’t Exclude Me:
The BBC Admit themselves that they are not qualified to determine whether restraint used against children is appropriate or not. Therefore to dismiss our complaint out of hand as they have is non-sensical. Why are they not addressing the complaint comprehensively or passing it to those more qualified than themselves to address these serious matters?ICARS
To all those children and survivors out there who are currently experiencing, or who have already experienced traumatic, life changing restraint, we’re sorry. We are sorry that your suffering has gone unheard.ICARS
To those children who will suffer traumatizing and potentially life-threatening restraint in the future as a result of this programming and its use in Open University Teacher Training courses, we’re sorry. We will continue to campaign and raise awareness of the deaths, the physical injuries and the psychological impacts the program perpetuates.ICARS
We are sorry that despite our best efforts the BBC chose to carry out such an incomplete and flawed investigation into our complaint. We are sorry that despite admitting they didn’t have the answers they did not seek the answers from anyone other than the one who perpetrated the restraint. We are sorry that yet again in 2022, in a supposedly civilised society, the most vulnerable have not been safeguarded.ICARS