Georgia has strictest student restraint, seclusion preventions

Published 9:01 pm Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In 2004, a 13-year-old boy struggling with ADHD hanged himself after being locked in a “time-out room” at his school in Gainsville, Ga. His parents had no idea that he was being isolated for hours at a time for misbehaving. 

The Georgia Department of Education has since adopted rules to limit student restraint and prohibit seclusion. Those rules led to Georgia receiving the highest rating for following U.S. Department of Education guidelines about student restraint and seclusion.

The Probublica report, which was released last month, gave Georgia a score of 12, while more than half of U.S. states scored less than five. The rating is based on six key elements:

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• restraints limited to emergencies

• seclusion limited to emergencies

• parental notification required

• prohibits seclusion

• prohibits restraints that restrict breathing

• prohibits mechanical restraints

Georgia is the only state to completely ban seclusion, which is defined as a “procedure that isolates and confines the student in a separate area until he or she is no longer an immediate danger to himself/herself or others,” according to Georgia DoE Rule 160-5-1-.35 Seclusion and Restraint for All Students.

This rule does not prevent time outs for short periods of time, but the student cannot be confined to another room or isolated location.

GDoE expressly prohibits the use of chemical, mechanical and prone restraints, and physical restraints are prohibited unless a student is an imminent danger to him/herself or others and all other attempts at calming the student has failed.

“Restraints should be immediately terminated when the student is no longer a danger,” according to the Seclusion and Restraint for All Students rule. If physical restraint is used, the parents of the student must be notified within one school day.

Georgia’s strict prohibitions against student restraint and seclusion took effect four years ago in July 2010. The Georgia Department of Education passed Rule 160-5-1-.35 Seclusion and Restraint for All Students, which “prohibits the use of seclusion and limits the use of restraint to those situations in which students are a danger to themselves or others,” according to the rule.