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  1. #1
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    GA 8th Grader's Suicide Spurs Lawsuit

    Hope this didn't already have a thread - I couldn't find one if it does. Having a son this age it really bothered me. Why is this legal???

    http://www.ajc.com/services/content/...svc=7&cxcat=13

    Jonathan King told teachers at his north Georgia alternate public school that he couldn’t stand being locked within the four concrete walls of a small seclusion room.

    In 2004, just weeks after threatening suicide, the 13-year-old eighth-grader hanged himself in the room, using a cord a teacher provided him to hold up his pants, court records show.

    <snip>

    Phil Hartley, Alpine’s lead attorney, said there is no law addressing the use of seclusion rooms in schools and that under Georgia law the school can’t be held accountable for Jonathan’s actions. Jonathan had threatened suicide several times and told teachers it was in jest, he said.

    <snip>

    Students stay at Alpine for a few months or years before returning to a traditional school setting. The most problematic are sometimes re-admitted.

    Jonathan was in and out of Alpine three times.

    During his final two-month stay, he was put in a seclusion room 19 times, according to court documents.

    Although half of those sessions were less than 25 minutes, he was twice put in a room for more than seven hours a day, records show.

    According to Howard “Sandy” Addis, director of the Pioneer education agency that oversees Alpine, procedures stated that seclusion rooms be used as therapy — not punishment — and as a last resort. Students also were not to be in the rooms for longer than 15 minutes without administrative approval, but no maximum limit had been implemented, Addis said.

    <snip>

  2. #2
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    What is the deal with 13 year old children killing themselves.

    A friend of a friend was going to someones house yesterday because of a 13 year old that did the same thing.

    I didn't know that was an option at 13. Not that it is an option now.
    "The cure for anything is salt water- sweat, tears, or the sea." -Isak Dinensen

  3. #3
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    Alpine school failed. They screwed up. I honestly believe they are very much aware and are hoping GA school state laws protect them.

    No person, healthy or not, should ever be place in a "seclusion" room for hours at a time. Hanged himself with a cord to hold his pants up....sweet Mary, take away his belt, but give him a rope. Unfreakingbelievable. Yea, there's some real common sense used. Idiot teacher. I bet that teacher hasn't been there since 2004.

    I hope the family wins the suit. I have no doubt it's not about money, but to make a clear statement of trust and responsibility that they gave this school. Hopefully, it will make a difference and be a wakeup call for other schools.
    "I went to the bank and asked to borrow a cup of money. They said, "What for?". I said, "I'm going to buy some sugar".

  4. #4
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    The school failed, clearly.

    The parents also, however, failed, if they did not recognize on their own the serious issues with their son--a child does not return repeatedly to an alternative school setting without a need for intervention both by the school and the parents. This child should have been in a therapeutic institutional setting, not just alternative school.

    BTW, I had a student who casually mentioned something along these lines, and I immediately notified the appropriate people who then called the parent and impressed upon the kid (who really was just venting but had issues) that if he said things like this, it would be treated very seriously. It's not my job to decide if a kid is joking.

  5. #5
    hipmamajen's Avatar
    hipmamajen is offline I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft...
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    If they have a seclusion room, there needs to be a protocol in place, and reference in the law to how it should be used. Duh.

    And even if they didn't think he was serious about committing suicide, they shouldn't have left him unsupervised. That's just a no-brainer for CYA reasons if nothing else. It sounds like they've been lucky this far if this is how they normally run this institution.

    I agree with Texana, he was not in the right setting given his history.
    Just thinkin' out loud....


  6. #6
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    [quote=Texana;2504361]The school failed, clearly.

    The parents also, however, failed, if they did not recognize on their own the serious issues with their son--a child does not return repeatedly to an alternative school setting without a need for intervention both by the school and the parents. This child should have been in a therapeutic institutional setting, not just alternative school.
    quote]

    This isn't a standard alternative school at all, I think it is probably closer to a daytime therapeutic setting. The full name of the school is "Alpine Psychoeducational Program" and is basically only for students with severe emotional and behavior problems. I think they are the school that kids are sent to when they have serious issues.

    I can't stand these stories.
    Stuff like 'seclusion rooms' and 'restraint positions', etc are really common for students with disabilities, but so many areas have no laws or even real guidelines saying what the rules are in regards to using them. There are way too many instances where children are traumatized or injured or killed when people use these things incorrectly or innapropriately and they're never charged with anything or punished at all because nobody has had the sense to write down how things are supposed to be done.

    This doesn't seem like a criminal case to me, but certainly the school seems liable. How on earth did they think it was OK to put someone into a locked room after they've threatened to commit suicide repeatedly if they're put in there again? Its also really unclear from the articles I've seen at least if the school ever even told the parents about the suicide threats, or that he was being put into this room for 7 hours at a time. My guess is they didn't.

  7. #7
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    I know at the private BD school the agency I work at runs, kids cannot be in the seclusion room without their parents permission. There is a sign off form and if the parents do not want their child in there, they will be called to come get them if the child cannot be calmed, is a serious danger to himself or others or is too big to be restrained.

    The seclusion room in the school has a large picture window and in order for a child to stay in there, a staff has to have their hand on a button that keeps the door locked. The staff cannot walk away without the door opening and by the position of the button, the staff is looking right at the child. They must document when the child initially goes in, the behavior that occurs while the child is in there and the time the child comes out. This document goes to the parents as well as the file.

    The other thing I wonder is where was the boy's therapist? If he was in a BD school, he should have been assigned a therapist. If any of our kids say they are going to kill themselves, they are put on suicide precautions which mean they have to be "eyes on" all the time. It seems to me that the therapist should have been in touch with the parents about the extreme behavior their child was exhibiting. Then again, due to confidentiality, we don't know the behaviors he displayed in order to get put in there. I'm wonder if he was just a PITA that they got tired of dealing with or if he was truly that BD. If so, the therapist should have been working with the parents to get this boy evaluated and possibly hospitalized.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorelei View Post
    This isn't a standard alternative school at all, I think it is probably closer to a daytime therapeutic setting. The full name of the school is "Alpine Psychoeducational Program" and is basically only for students with severe emotional and behavior problems. I think they are the school that kids are sent to when they have serious issues.

    I can't stand these stories.
    Stuff like 'seclusion rooms' and 'restraint positions', etc are really common for students with disabilities, but so many areas have no laws or even real guidelines saying what the rules are in regards to using them. There are way too many instances where children are traumatized or injured or killed when people use these things incorrectly or innapropriately and they're never charged with anything or punished at all because nobody has had the sense to write down how things are supposed to be done.

    This doesn't seem like a criminal case to me, but certainly the school seems liable. How on earth did they think it was OK to put someone into a locked room after they've threatened to commit suicide repeatedly if they're put in there again? Its also really unclear from the articles I've seen at least if the school ever even told the parents about the suicide threats, or that he was being put into this room for 7 hours at a time. My guess is they didn't.
    I totally agree with you, in that the school failed in putting the child in that setting and without supervision--what were they thinking? Clearly not thinking at all. I think there's definite negligence on the part of the school, and obviously well on the way to criminal neglect.

    However, I woud throw in a little parental responsibility, in that the educational environment can only go so far for these children. At a certain point, a 24/7 environment is more appropriate, one that includes medical intervention and intense psychiatric care as well.

    Every state has minimal guidelines for these children and federal laws as well. However, the laws are expensive to implement--just figuring them out is a challenge in itself.

    This was a severely troubled child. He deserved better from everyone.

  9. #9
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    The poor boy. It's too bad that his suicide threats weren't taken seriously the very first time. I hope the parents win a lawsuit since the boy killed himself at school. He obviously had mental illness and needed some sort of behavior plan in place so that he wouldn't have been left in a small isolation room alone, at all, and especially with a belt. Criminals have more rights, so I guess that wouldn't have happened if he'd been in jail, but he probably needed to be in a hospital/school setting to get proper treatment and maybe some help. Good luck with finding that help if there's no good insurance though.

  10. #10
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    I worked at a residential treatment facility...don't fall under the assumption that those are any better. This alternative school sounds like the place where the boys I worked with attended school (we didn't have on campus schooling). It really sounds like EVERYONE failed this poor child.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]


  11. #11
    OneLostGrl's Avatar
    OneLostGrl is offline I'm going against the grain- I'm going sane
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    Unreal!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by commongrackle View Post
    I worked at a residential treatment facility...don't fall under the assumption that those are any better. This alternative school sounds like the place where the boys I worked with attended school (we didn't have on campus schooling). It really sounds like EVERYONE failed this poor child.
    I agree EVERYONE failed this child. I would like to no more about his home life, his parents. For him to be so messed up at 13 there had to be more going on at home. The school is at fault but I am sure the parents have some blame that can be placed on them also.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by HesterMofet View Post
    I know at the private BD school the agency I work at runs, kids cannot be in the seclusion room without their parents permission. There is a sign off form and if the parents do not want their child in there, they will be called to come get them if the child cannot be calmed, is a serious danger to himself or others or is too big to be restrained.

    The seclusion room in the school has a large picture window and in order for a child to stay in there, a staff has to have their hand on a button that keeps the door locked. The staff cannot walk away without the door opening and by the position of the button, the staff is looking right at the child. They must document when the child initially goes in, the behavior that occurs while the child is in there and the time the child comes out. This document goes to the parents as well as the file.

    The other thing I wonder is where was the boy's therapist? If he was in a BD school, he should have been assigned a therapist. If any of our kids say they are going to kill themselves, they are put on suicide precautions which mean they have to be "eyes on" all the time. It seems to me that the therapist should have been in touch with the parents about the extreme behavior their child was exhibiting. Then again, due to confidentiality, we don't know the behaviors he displayed in order to get put in there. I'm wonder if he was just a PITA that they got tired of dealing with or if he was truly that BD. If so, the therapist should have been working with the parents to get this boy evaluated and possibly hospitalized.
    You work in an excellent system, with well thought out design. However, systems such as these are very expensive on a per-child basis and prohibitively costly for areas except the most affluent or tax-wealthy to run.

    Having the state assume full responsibiblity for the care and education of every child with psychiatric problems is unworkable, especially as more parents abdicate their roles to the state and we demand the state take them over. There simply aren't enough health care workers or money to provide an elite system like the one in which HesterMofet works for the burgeoning number of socially malfunctional children, esp using lawsuits to "fix" the system and draining out further funds.

    Fortunately, most parents are there for their children's needs, but the trend is clearly toward defining the whole child and adolescent health arena into a governmental issue, which encourages those with poor parenting skills to avoid any responsibility, and minimalizes those who take such great care of their kids primarily by their own hands. The latter group is the one we need to model and encourage.

    C6

  14. #14
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    This suicide is still bothering me. I'm convinced that the most troublesome kids are truly mentally ill and undiagnosed or not medicated with the proper medications. Children aren't criminals when they are out of control or suffering from mental illness. If they didn't go to school their parents would go to jail. They and the school have no choice if they can't homeschool for some reason. It's all about money IMO

  15. #15
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    Seven hours in isolation?? What if they have to go to the bathroom? I know I can't hold it for seven hours. What if they need water? Any school that would leave a kid unsupervised for that long, locked in a room without food, water, or facilities is just negligent.



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