Johnston schools cited for improperly restraining students

Posted September 14, 2012

— Disability advocates claim Johnston County Schools violated state law by routinely restraining more than a dozen special needs students, but district officials deny any major wrongdoing.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights recently found that at least 18 students at West Clayton Elementary School and Four Oaks Elementary School were improperly restrained.

"It's wrong. It's beyond inappropriate," said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina, and Smith said improperly restraining special needs students is a statewide problem.

Leanna George said she sat in on her daughter's class at Four Oaks Elementary last year and characterized the treatment she saw as abuse.

"She was in the chair for almost 90 percent of the time she was there at school," George said Friday.

Ten-year-old Serenity George, a fifth-grader, was diagnosed with autism and borderline mental retardation when she was 2½. Knowing her daughter has behavioral problems, George said she gave teachers permission to restrain Serenity for what she thought would be on a limited basis.

"If I was at home and I had my child sitting in a chair strapped down like that for several hours on end, I'd be in trouble with Child Protective Services," George said. "Yet, they're able to do this at school and get away with it."

Serenity George Special-needs students improperly restrained at two Johnston schools

Tracey Peedin Jones, the spokeswoman for the Johnston County Schools, didn't acknowledge any responsibility for improper use of restraints.

"The Office of Civil Rights, they focused on our documentation of the use of adaptive chairs, not the actual use of the adaptive chairs," Peedin Jones said.

The report indicated some teachers never received any training on the use of restraints.

As part of the resolution agreement between the Office of Civil Rights and the school district, the school district will conduct more training, have additional meetings and improve its reporting.

"This agreement does not constitute an admission by the district of any violation," Peedin Jones said.

George said she feels validated by the investigative report that was recently issued.

"If it is illegal for me to do it as a parent, it should be illegal for schools to do it as a school system," she said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • spedteacher Sep 14, 2012

    nogodbutallah- have you ever stepped foot into a self-contained special education class?? I am sure you haven't from the ignorant post you wrote. As a special education teacher for 30 plus years, I can assure you that I nor any other special education teacher I have worked with treat our students the way you believe. I have had to restrain children when they were a danger to themselves. Would you rather I let them continue to hit their head on the floor or walls? Continue biting themselves until they draw blood? Continue throwing furniture at other students?? Until you walk in our shoes or that of a special needs parent, then I suggest you stop embarrassing yourself with your rantings.

  • ksh33 Sep 14, 2012

    Lg.....if this is the case, I would like for them to rerun or revise this story. It is saying something totally different from your comments in this section.

  • nogodbutallah Sep 14, 2012

    This is simple laziness from teachers and staff. They probably have very little experience or patience with special needs students. They tie them up and leave them tied up for the day while they do what they do, hang out, smoke cigarettes off the back balcony, anything other than actually try to teach a difficult student. Then when the test scores for the classroom are below par, they feign ignorance and suddenly point out difficulties that never even existed.

  • lg100778 Sep 14, 2012

    My child is entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education by Federal Law - IDEA. If I have to fight for my child to get what she is entitled to, I will. If we will not stand up for our rights, then why should those who are required to provide us with the benefits of those rights even care what quality they give us? We fight the good fight not only for my child, but for the children that will come after. As far as the question of setting, Serenity was in a self contained class, always kept separate from the general population. However, we found that even the separate class was not an appropriate setting because they could not integrate her to the class despite trying. Had documentation been kept, perhaps the IEP team in reviewing the documentation would have realized that sooner. In December of 2011, Serenity went into homebound programming, she received 3 hours a week of educational services and I basically homeschooled her. She is now in a special residential program.

  • Rebelyell55 Sep 14, 2012

    My point being is that most regular school systems are not qualified to handle these kids. I saw this 35 years ago and ya would think that they were better at it than back then. I know there are special funds use for this purpose, but that not to say that the funds aren't mis-used. (I was a special need child for 14 years myself). But not to the extent that most are, I was place there to fill a quote for more money.

  • iwannareply Sep 14, 2012

    Since the public schools are not educating this student correctly, I vote the student be home schooled. I doubt this violates PL 94-142.

  • happymom Sep 14, 2012

    "I agree all children should be educated to the best of their ability, but this is what happen when some parent insist on putting their "special need" child in with regular schools."

    I'm afraid you don't understand the entire context of the story here. These are NOT mainstreamed kids. They are in a self-contained classroom.

    For the record, my own "special needs" kid is mainstreamed because it is appropriate. We have no need for restraints (and yes, I do insist that he be mainstreamed since he will have to live and function in mainstream society- as he is fully capable of doing). The kids in this story are not in that position.

    I'd also like to encourage you to be less judgmental about mainstreaming. When it is done under appropriate circumstances, ALL kids benefit- including "regular" students.

  • lg100778 Sep 14, 2012

    I'm the mom here. I just wanted to say one thing that wasn't here. Despite what this story sounds like, I do support the teachers and faculty at my daughter's school and feel they did their best in regards to Serenity. Perhaps part of the reason things went on so long, is their dedication to her as their student and refusal to fail in serving her. My concern here, was really regarding hearing of parents who had no idea that their child was being restrained in school. I'm not going to say that the use of the chair for my child was completely inappropriate, but perhaps if documentation had been kept we would have realized that the school was not the appropriate setting for Serenity at that time. I appreciate all the efforts and progress the school has made with Serenity. The dedication of the teachers and the principal at Four Oaks is outstanding. However, this story needed to be told, parents need to know what their children are experiencing at school.

  • Rebelyell55 Sep 14, 2012

    I agree all children should be educated to the best of their ability, but this is what happen when some parent insist on putting their "special need" child in with regular schools.