Forum to address child restraint policies

Advocates for children with disabilities will hold a public forum in Macon today to talk about an issue state education officials are grappling with: When is it OK for educators to restrain or seclude a student?

Those practices — whether it be drugging a child, physically restraining them or locking them alone in a padded room — aren’t used often in Georgia schools. But situations do arise, particularly for students with a mental handicap.

The state Department of Education hasn’t had any hard and fast rules about the practice, leaving it up to local districts instead. Now the state is developing a rule, and several organizations interested in the process are gathering to discuss it from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Pilot International Foundation located at 102 Preston Court in Macon.

So far, in draft regulations, the state is moving toward a total ban on chemical restraint, as well as a ban on seclusion and using restraint as a punishment, according to the Georgia Advocacy Office.

But the GAO and other groups are hoping for more changes, including more training for school personnel and reporting requirements in the rare cases restraint would be allowed to keep a child from hurting himself or others.

“If it happens to any kid, it can happen to every kid,” GAO Executive Director Ruby Moore said of restraint and seclusion.

“We want rules that protect all of Georgia’s students from restraint and seclusion,” said Eric Jacobson, executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.

The Bibb County school system does “do some restraint” with written parental permission, Special Education Director Donna Poole said.

Typically that means a “hold that you’re trained to do” to restrain the student, she said.

Poole also said she would like to see the state offer some guidance on these issues.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.