ATLANTA -- It was November of 2004, 13 year old Johnathan King, a Hall County student, hanged himself with a rope in a seclusion room. Attorney Leslie Lipson with the Georgia Advocacy Office, a federally funded non profit, talked about the case.
"His parents never knew he was put in there." Lipson says parents do not have to be notified when their children are restrained or put in seclusion rooms at school. In King's case, she says his parents had no idea he was spending hours alone in a virtual cell.
"He came home and said 'Mom I had time out today.' She thought it was traditionally what parents mean when they say time out. But he was being locked in a room that closely resembles a prison cell."
During one of those seclusions, King hung himself with a rope a teacher had given him to hold up his pants.
In May of last year, Cherokee County teacher Laurie Peavy and parapro Nancy Cheek were arrested and charged with cruelty to children. Prosecutors say Peavy duct taped a 17 year old boy with Autism to his chair.
Lipson says, "Currently in Georgia it is a wild west. There is no requirement or rules or limitations whatsoever. It is bad because it's a dangerous practice."
Georgia's Department of Education will vote later this year on a proposal to end seclusion and restraints in school, a practice most often used with students with special needs.
"We're looking for the Department of Education to put safeguards forth that make this practice greatly reduced and eventually eliminated."
Forums are being held across the state on the topic, from Valdosta to Athens to Macon to Atlanta.
The Department of Education could vote on a proposal as early as May.
The information below is how to learn more about the issue and contact officials who will vote later this year.
From Leslie Lipson, attorney, The Georgia Advocacy Office
Currently, students in Georgia schools can be restrained and secluded in public schools for any reason, in any way, at any time. And parents don't have to be told about it. The Safe Schools Initiative is working to change this dangerous practice by working together with the Department of Education to pass a strong rule that protects both students and staff.
The Georgia Advocacy Office, in collaboration with The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University, the Institute on Human Development and Disability at the University of Georgia, and Parent to Parent of Georgia urges the Georgia State Board of Education to promulgate a rule that protects all Georgia students from restraint and seclusion and which encourages the proactive use of Positive Behavior Supports in Georgia public schools.
The Web site of the Georgia Advocacy Office, Georgia's protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities has information about the Safe Schools Initiative including links to the second (and current) draft of the Department of Education's rule; a Declaration on ending Restraint and Seclusion that we are asking people to sign; the GAO's comments regarding the DOE's second draft rule; a flyer announcing the 4 public forums and 2 webinars (that have since passed); and a sample letter that people can use as a guide to making public comments.
Additionally, the Parent to Parent Web site contains more background information regarding the national reports regarding restraint and seclusion which have provided momentum for the current movement in Georgia.
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