Discipline in schools is often not regulated

By Dorie Turner
Associated Press / February 26, 2010

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ATLANTA - Don King did not have a clue that his son, Jonathan, was being put in a seclusion cell at school for hours because of bad behavior - until the 13-year-old hanged himself while in “time out.’’

Now, King and his wife, Tina, are pushing state education officials to pass a policy banning the use of solitary confinement in Georgia schools, which they say led to their son’s death in 2004.

Seclusion is a controversial and sometimes dangerous disciplinary tactic that 19 states, including Georgia, do not regulate in any way, according to a new study from the US Department of Education.

“It took the death of my son for everybody to start listening about this problem,’’ said Don King, who lives in Gainesville, north of Atlanta. “I wish we had known they were locking him up like that or we would have taken him out of that school. They treated my kid like a prisoner.’’

The federal report released this week stems from Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s query to state school chiefs last year on policies for confinement and restraint of misbehaving students. The report shows that even though 31 states have some type of policy, many are weak and do not clearly define proper disciplinary measures for children.

Duncan told lawmakers last year that he wants to be sure “every state has a real clear plan as to how to do this in a way that makes sense and doesn’t jeopardize, doesn’t endanger children.’’

For the first time, lawmakers are considering legislation that would prohibit restraint and seclusion in most circumstances and require training for educators on effective behavior management. The bill passed the House Education and Labor Committee earlier this month.