July 8, 2010 was a historic day for Georgia public school students, as the State Board of Education voted unanimously to enact Rule 160-5-1-.35 which prohibits the use of seclusion, prone restraint, mechanical restraint, and chemical restraint. The Rule limits the use of physical restraint to those situations involving imminent danger. Additionally, the Rule requires schools to notify parents within one school day that their child has been restrained. Before this historic vote, schools could restrain or seclude any student, at any time, for any reason.
The Safe Schools Initiative commends the Department of Education and the State Board of Education on this inaugural action to limit these dangerous practices. However, one key safeguard is noticeably missing: there are no provisions for reporting incidents of restraint beyond informing parents. Oversight, data collection and analysis are pivotal in identifying schools that need additional support to appropriately maintain a safe educational environment. After receiving overwhelming public support for data collection, the Board decided to withhold data collection about individual districts until the federal government mandates such practice. The Board publicly announced its eventual intent to collect outcome data; but the timeline, methodology, and stakeholder access to information are all unknown.
The Safe Schools Initiative is a collaborative effort of five organizations – the Georgia Advocacy Office, 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 – to end the restraint and seclusion of students in Georgia schools.
PREVIOUSLY IN GEORGIA, students in public schools could be restrained and secluded for any reason, at anytime, by any employee of a school district, without telling the student’s family. On May 13, 2010, the Georgia State Board of Education initiated Rule 160-5-1-.35 “Seclusion and Restraint for All Students,” which bans seclusion and greatly limits the use of restraints for all students in Georgia public schools.