New Rules: Isolation, Handcuffs, Hogties

Schools cannot put children in seclusion rooms as a form of punishment anymore, and must limit the use of physical and chemical restraints. The State Board of Education approved new rules Thursday for handcuffing children, controlling them with prone restraint tactics, and giving them prescription drugs to control their behavior. These measures are now limited to situations where students are an immediate danger to themselves or others, or when calming techniques don’t work. Parents of 13-year old Jonathon King of Gainesville pushed for changes after their son hanged himself in a seclusion room in 2004. Jonathan was a student in the Alpine Program, a public school in Gainesville, Ga.

Rural GA schools still spanking

More than 28,500 students were spanked as a form of discipline in Georgia public schools last year. The latest annual report is out from the Georgia Department of Education called Counts of Discipline Actions. It reveals that corporal punishment was more prevalent in rural counties and in the southern parts of the state. Laurens County led the state with more than 2,400 students who got paddled. Randolph County was second, with almost 1600 students getting corporal punishment in 2009.

Zero tolerance meets common sense

Georgia’s revised Zero Tolerance law gives local school systems and judges more discretion in dealing with children who bring a weapon to school but don’t intend to hurt anyone.  Senate Sponsor Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) introduced the law after hearing about a 14-year old Morgan County boy who was arrested after he voluntarily turned in a fishing knife to his principal last year. “Students have been expelled or sent to jail for bringing a key chain, nail clippers, and even a Cub Scout utensil to school,” said Jones. “This legislation brings common sense to the all or nothing approach that school officials use to discipline kids under zero tolerance policies.”

The law changes the juvenile code to make a first offense a delinquent act, rather than a designated felony.  SB299 won unanimous passage in the legislature. Governor Perdue signed the bill May 25. The action comes too late for 14 year old Eli Mohone, who was convicted of a felony for turning in his knife.  WSB radio reports he’s on probation for a year, but hopes to get his record expunged.