Special Education Teacher Given Immunity

In February 2014, the case against former special needs teacher Melanie Pickens received a final say from Judge Henry Newkirk. The Fulton County judge granted
immunity to the former Fulton County teacher accused of abusing students with disabilities at Hopewell Middle School in Milton, Georgia between 2004-2007.

GCDD Executive Director Eric Jacobson interviewed with CBS Atlanta on the decision, and stated that it might be a step back for all the progressive work that was done for students with disabilities.

“A coalition worked with the Board of Education and it was the most progressive rules and regulations around seclusion and restraint for students with disabilities passed by the school board,” Jacobson told CBS46. “The judge’s decision may actually take us a step back from where those regulations were. The regulations were put in place to make sure that no child, including those with disabilities, was put into secluded spots or at risk of being harmed.”

Pickens was charged in an 11-count indictment but the judge ruled in favor of a state law that protects Georgia teachers from criminal prosecution who discipline their
students as long as their actions were in “good faith.”