ATLANTA, June 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Five leading Georgia disabilities advocacy organizations gathered today at the State Board of Education to implore its members to pass and strengthen a new rule to protect schoolchildren from restraint and seclusion.
The Coalition behind the "Safe Schools Initiative" – the Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO), Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University, Institute on Human Development and Disability at the University of Georgia and Parent to Parent of Georgia – declared at a public hearing and press conference its determination to free all children from the harmful practices of restraint and seclusion. They called for the 13-body board to go beyond passing the Rule 160-5-1-.35 as it is currently written but to also strengthen it by adding a safeguard that would require data collection and analysis.
"We applaud the State Board of Education for its commitment to initiate a new rule to better protect our children," said Leslie Lipson, parent leadership support project director, Georgia Advocacy Office. "While this is a milestone, the rule, as it is, isn't enough to stop these widespread, yet hidden, practices. Data collection and analysis are pivotal in identifying schools that need additional support to appropriately maintain a safe educational environment. We must take that next step. We have an opportunity to make history and lead the country in efforts to end the practice of restraint and seclusion."
A 2009 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office revealed that its investigation did not uncover a single web site, federal agency or other entity that collects information on the use of these methods of the extent of their alleged abuse. They also reported finding "hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death" resulting from the use of physical restraint and seclusion of school children over the last 20 years.
Currently, students in Georgia schools can be restrained or secluded for any reason, in any way and at any time. Rule 160-5-1-.35 would limit the use of restraint and seclusion in Georgia's public schools by prohibiting the use of seclusion, chemical restraints such as prescription drugs, mechanical restraints, or prone restraints. Physical restraint would only be allowed in extreme situations when students are in imminent danger to themselves or others. The board has 30 days to vote on and pass the Rule. The public has the opportunity to provide written comment via email to the BOE at email@example.com by July 5.
"This is not a Rule about discipline; it is a Rule about safety. This is not an issue relevant only to children with disabilities or behavioral issues. This issue impacts all of our children," said Eric E. Jacobson, executive director, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. "We must shift the culture of Georgia public schools so that all students have the right to receive an appropriate education in a safe environment that fosters learning and encourages the use of positive behavior supports."
With the parents of the 13-year-old Jonathan King who hanged himself in a seclusion room in 2004 standing behind them, the Safe Schools Initiative coalition issued three charges to:
- Educators: to embrace and adopt the concept of Positive Behavioral Supports as an alternative to restraint and seclusion.
- Parents: to act as advocates on behalf of their children.
- The general public: become a part of the process by submitting written comments to the BOE in support of the Rule.
"There is nothing smart, educational or positive about restraining or secluding a child," Lipson said. "Together, we can create schools that are safe for children and teachers, provide effective oversight and support, and ultimately protect our children."
About The Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO)
The Georgia Advocacy Office, Inc. (GAO) is a private non-profit corporation. Its mission is to work with and for oppressed and vulnerable individuals in Georgia who are labeled as disabled or mentally ill to secure their protection and advocacy. GAO's work is mandated by Congress, and GAO has been designated by Georgia as the agency to implement Protection and Advocacy within the state for people with disabilities.
About The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD)
GCDD is a federally funded, independent state agency that meets quarterly throughout Georgia to collaborate with citizens, public and private advocacy organizations, and policy makers to positively influence public policies that enhance the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities and their families. It is one of 55 entities of its type in the US and territories, created by Congress through the Developmental Disabilities Bill of Rights Act of 1971.
SOURCE Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities