Schools have new policy on restraint

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

CONYERS -- Employees at Rockdale County Public Schools must follow a new restraint policy this school year, after state officials required local systems to do so.

The Rockdale County Board of Education approved a new policy, Seclusion or Restraint of Students, at its monthly meeting last week that defines types of seclusion and restraint and what is allowed and isn't allowed on school grounds.

In the new policy, the board prohibits the use of seclusion, a procedure that isolates and confines a student unobserved by an adult, for all students and limits the use of physical restraints on them -- "the board authorizes the use of reasonable and appropriate action, including physical restraint, by its employees where the use of physical restraint is necessary to prevent harm to students or others and when the student is not responsive to less intensive de-escalation techniques."

The policy calls for educators to use their professional judgment and discretion in such situations. Staff members must go through positive behavioral intervention strategies, crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, as trained, when necessary.

Prohibited uses of restraint include chemical (use of not prescribed medication), mechanical (use of a device or material), prone (a student is intentionally placed face down) or physical restraints (direct physical contact that prevents or significantly restricts movement) and restraints with duct tape and other adhesives, according to the policy.

According to the accompanying administrative regulation, seclusion does not prevent a student from being placed in time out for a short, predetermined period of time; a student being moved from the classroom to another location for de-escalation; a student being removed from the classroom due to disruptive behavior; and a student from serving in-school suspension, all in which an adult would provide supervision.

The regulation calls for no physical restraint to ever be used when the student is responsive to less intensive interventions, when it is used as a form of discipline or retaliation, when a student cannot be safely restrained and when it would go against the students' medical or physical conditions. Physical restraint does not include providing limited physical contact, preventing a potentially harmful action, providing physical guidance, redirecting attention, providing guidance to a location or providing comfort, according to the regulation.

When it must be used, it must not be carried out with anger or actual malice and it must be immediately reported to the principal, the regulation requires.

The principal then must notify the parent that physical restraint was applied to his child and describe the surrounding circumstances, according to the regulation.

RCPS Superintendent Samuel King said the new policy is a directive from the state, which signed into law a policy in the summer of 2010 that requires each school system across the state to develop a policy. The policy is modeled with guidance from the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia School Board Association.

Garrett Brundage, executive director in the Office of Support Services at RCPS, said all school-level staff will be trained on the procedures.