UPDATE | Harlem mom wants answers after child is physically restrained in special needs class

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News 12 First at Five / March 31, 2016

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- A mother is called to an elementary school to find her son had been restrained by teachers. She then finds out a substitute teacher was in the classroom that day.

"It says that he has no injuries," read Jasamine Bennett, a North Harlem Elementary mother.

That's what a restraint report filed Monday says, but Bennett disagrees. She took a picture of her 5-year-old, Carlos, showing marks around his eye.

"I want my son to feel comfortable in his school. How is he supposed to feel comfortable in his school if he was restrained?" she said.

In a Harlem Police report obtained by News 12, officials say Bennett went to the station Monday. Chief Chuck Meadows says a miscellaneous report, rather than a criminal report, was filed then. He says that report was approved in the system on Thursday morning. In the report, and confirmed verbally, Meadows says he did not see the marks on the child's face.

The school documented her son became upset when another student "earned a reward," and became upset. On that day, Bennett says his regular special education teacher was out.

The clinic environment, such as Reaching Milestones in Martinez, is different from a school environment which can often be stressful and demanding for students and teachers. But, the therapists at the clinic get to work one-on-one with each child to figure out what's working and what can work in the classroom.

"Whatever the need is we work on it," said Felicia Jackson, the Administrative Coordinator for Reaching Milestones.

They say any time you change that routine, things can get dicey.

"You have to ask, what is maintaining this behavior? What is the function of this behavior? What function does it serve for this child?" said Alicia Yoshimoto, the director of the clinic.

Therapists there say targeting what makes a child tick is part of the training, and in the Individualized Education Program. And to them, training should be mandatory for anyone dealing with kids with disabilities.

"You have to know the child and know how to prevent certain situations and when you can't you need to know what to do," said Jackson.

The North Harlem Elementary principal says he cannot comment on Monday's incident. However, the school system says they follow all policies laid out by the Georgia Department of Education. Some of the requirements in the specific restraint code state schools cannot give a student medication, use mechanical restraints, or hold a student face down on the floor.


News 12 First at Five / March 29, 2016

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A Harlem mom says she's not getting any answers from her child's school after some of the staff restrained her son in a special needs classroom.

She says when she went to get her five year old after the incident, she saw marks on his face.Her son said someone held him down.

In a school incident report, teachers wrote that they used restraint then counseling to calm down the five year old. But it does not say how they restrained him.

In a Harlem Police report obtained by News 12, officials say Bennett went to the station Monday. Chief Chuck Meadows says a miscellaneous report, rather than a criminal report, was filed then. He says that report was approved in the system on Thursday morning. In the report, and confirmed verbally, Meadows says he did not see the marks on the child's face.

"It makes me feel awful, it makes me feel very sad. He said momma I was calling for you," said Jasamine Bennett, the mother of the five year old.

Bennett is an involved mother at North Harlem Elementary. Just last week, she went by to check out her son's special needs class, and says she was happy with what she saw. But yesterday, while the teacher was out, she was called in for something else.

"A paraprofessional teacher that has had no dealings with my son thought he needed to be restrained. He was in tears, he was crying, he was upset. He didn't know what to do," Bennett said. "The first words that came out of his mouth were 'momma I told them they were hurting me but they would not stop until I stopped crying."

Any time something like this happens in school, teachers are required to document it. In the school's report, they listed what led up to the events, and where they happened. But Jasamine says there's something they aren't telling her after seeing marks on his face.

"I asked the principal, the teachers involved, no one could tell me what happened to my son. They're not sure how he got that way," Bennett said.

Her son Carlos is on the autism spectrum, and told his mother he was held down.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, the use of prone restraint, which is when a student is held face down, is "expressly prohibited." But the report fails to detail how Carlos was restrained.

"No parent wants their child to be physically restrained and then have questions about how long that restraint lasted," said Christine Robison, the Autism Services Director for ABLE Tree. "Was my child upset? You know, as a mom, I would want to know, did my child cry out for me?"

Robison says restraint should only be used if there's immediate and imminent danger.

"I want to see something so I know that my son was not in harms way," Bennett said.

A bill to get cameras into special needs classroom is sitting on Gov. Deal's desk right now-- waiting for his signature. If he signs, the department of education will select districts to participate, especially if requested by parents.

The school system has specially trained people to deal with these "crisis" situations, and they're trained to deescalate the situation in different ways. But as for this specific case, the school has not gotten back to us yet.